Update on Hydro Activity in Asia


200 MW Xiajiang project, China (photo courtesy Alstom)

Asia is simply buzzing with hydro activity right now, with new projects coming on line, aging projects undergoing rehabilitation, and all points in between. A number of countries are standing out in terms of their hydro development. Here we take a look at some of them.

By Elizabeth A. Ingram
Associate editor of HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide.

While certain countries in Asia are enjoying a high level of hydro development activity, overall there remains significant untapped potential in the region. In fact, although hydropower accounts for 39% of the total electricity generated, only 20% of the region’s total potential has been developed.1

Those numbers are set to change. Many groups are working to develop or support the development of hydro projects throughout Asia. For example, in September 2010, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced plans to issue its inaugural Clean Energy Bond to support clean energy projects, including hydro, in Asia and the Pacific. ADB will provide assistance in an amount at least equal to that raised by the bond. ADB is targeting US$2 billion a year in clean energy investments by 2013, focusing on renewable energy (such as hydro) as well as projects to improve energy efficiency.

Focusing on the primary hotbeds of hydro activity in Asia — Cambodia, China, Georgia, India, Laos, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam — perhaps represents just a fraction of all the hydro work taking place in the Asia Pacific region. But it does give an insight into the types of activity that is under way — including bringing new plants on line, constructing new facilities, planning future developments, and rehabilitating existing plants.


Primary energy demand in Cambodia is expected to grow 3.7% per year from 2005 to 2030, according to a recent report from the Asian Development Bank and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.2 The report estimates hydro generation will grow at an annual rate of 19.4%, and this impressive growth is certainly reflected in the development activity currently under way in the country.

For example, the 193.2 MW Kamchay project in Kampot Province is due for completion in 2013. This project, being built and operated by China’s Sinohydro Corp., is expected to cost $280 million and should generate 498 GWh annually.

Construction began in March 2010 on 246 MW Stung Tatay in Koh Kong Province. The $540 million project, to be built and owned by affiliates of Huadian Power International Corp. Ltd. of China, is due for completion by 2014. In addition, Huadian plans to build the 338 MW Orussei plant in Koh Kong Province. This $558 million project is expected to be complete in 2013 and generate 1.02 TWh annually. Huadian also is building the 338 MW Stung Russey Chrum Krom project in Koh Kong, scheduled for completion in 2015.

In March 2010, the Vietnam Urban and Industrial Zone Development Investment Corp. won a bid to build a plant on the Mekong, in Stung Treng Province, costing some US$3 billion and providing a capacity of up to 980 MW.


By far, China is the scene of the most hydro development activity in Asia. Hydropower accounts for 22% of national generation capacity, and it is expanding at a rate of 15 GW per year, according to equipment manufacturer Alstom. This push to develop hydro is part of the country’s goals to generate 15% of its power from non-fossil sources by 2020 and to cut its carbon emissions per unit of economic output by 40% to 45% by 2010.

When it was commissioned in August 2010, the 120 MW Sewa 2 project in India brought developer NHPC Limited’s (formerly National Hydroelectric Power Corporation) hydro capacity to 5,295 MW.

When all the units at Yunnan Lancang River Hydropower Development Co. Ltd.’s 4,200 MW Xiaowan project on the upper Mekong River began operating in August 2010, China’s hydro capacity became the world’s largest at just over 200 GW. Meanwhile, Zhang Guobao, director of the National Energy Administration, said that another 70 GW of capacity is under construction.

One example is the 1,800 MW Guanyinyan project on the Jinsha River, which is expected to begin operating in 2014. Owner Datang Guanyinyan Hydropower Development Co. Ltd. awarded a €70 million (US$93 million) contract to Alstom in December 2010 to supply three Francis turbine-generators. And the 200 MW Xiajiang is under construction on the Ganjiang River. Owner Jiangxi Province Xiajiang Water Control Project Headquarters awarded a €50 million ($69 million) contract to Alstom in November 2010 to supply five 40 MW bulb turbine-generators, expected to be operational by summer 2013.

Other projects under construction include the 13,860 MW Xiluodu, the 6,400 MW Xiangjiaba, the 8,700 MW Jinping 1 and 2, and the 2,400 MW Guandi. Xiluodu and Xiangjiaba are being built by China Three Gorges Corp. in the Jinshajiang River Basin, upstream of the Yangtze River. Both are scheduled to begin operating in 2014. Jinping 1 and 2 and Guandi are being built by Ertan Hydropower Development Co. in the Yalongjiang River Basin. Jinping 1 and 2 are to begin operating in 2014 and Guandi in 2013.

In November 2010, development of the 2,600 MW Changheba project in Sichuan Province was approved by the National Development and Reform Commission. The US$3.46 billion project will be built and operated by Sichuan Datang International Ganzi Hydropower Development Co. Operations are due late 2016 and full capacity by April 2018.

A-Power Energy Generation Systems is working to develop three projects in Jilin Province. The company received a US$279 million, six-year contract in September 2010 from the Baishan Long Run Water Conservancy for this work, which will be conducted by A-Power subsidiary Liaoning Hi-tech (Gao Ke) Energy Group. The terms of the contract, to be executed in three 24-month phases, include design and building the 12.8 MW Xibeicha project, as well as a 64 MW station in Laosong Township in the city of Baishan and two 16 MW stations in the Jingyu Township of Baishan.

Manufacturers also recognize the significance of the Chinese hydro market. In November 2010, Alstom inaugurated a new manufacturing facility at Tianjin, called Alstom Hydro China Co. Ltd., which represents an investment of about €110 million ($156.5 million). And a joint venture between Toshiba and Sinohydro Toshiba Hydro Power (Hangzhou) Co. Ltd., completed expansion of its assembly and machining shop and construction of an advanced hydraulic research laboratory in October 2010. The expansion allows the manufacture of 600 MW class hydro generation equipment and doubles its output.


Significant work is under way in Georgia for development of new hydro facilities. The government awarded a US$150 million project to Turkey’s Kolin Construction in January 2011 to build a cascade of four plants on the Tekhuri River in western Georgia with a combined minimum capacity of 105.7 MW. The Ministry of Energy said the construction will take four years. Under ministry rules, investors given hydro plant concessions agree for 10 years to sell power only for domestic consumption during three months each winter but are free to sell to any customer, domestic or foreign, any other time.

Georgia’s Ministry of Energy also seeks to develop the Upper Mtkvari Cascade of two to three hydro plants totaling 137 MW to 219 MW. The projects in the Samtskhe-Havakheti Region are to be developed on a build-own-operate basis and have a preliminary cost of US$410 million to US$604 million and are expected to generate an average of 714–1,205 GWh annually.

Small hydro projects also provide potential in Georgia. In February 2010, the United Nations Development Program began seeking bids for consulting services for small hydro development in the country. The request for proposals included constructing 5.4 MW Khadori 2 on the Alazani River. It also included reconstructing the 6.5 MW Ritseula on the Ritseula River, increasing capacity of the Pshavela project to 25 MW (from 450 kW), and reconstructing the 1 MW Achi plant.

Georgia also plans to export power to neighboring Turkey. In August 2010, Siemens Energy was awarded a €170 million (US$215 million) contract by Energotrans Ltd. to install two turnkey high-voltage direct current (HVDC) back-to-back links to connect the Georgian network with Turkey’s grid. Completion is planned for May 2013.

The 1,070 MW Nam Theun 2 project, the largest hydro facility in Laos, was inaugurated in December 2010. It is expected this project will contribute US$2 billion to the Lao treasury over its first 25 years of operation.

Rehabilitation work to be completed in Georgia includes the 1,250 MW Enguri plant and the downstream 245 MW Vardnili cascade. Enguri releases water into the Vardnili water channel. Three of four Vardnili plants were destroyed during the civil war. The European Investment Bank (EIB) loaned €20 million ($25.9 million) to Georgia which will be used to rehabilitate two of the five generator units at Enguri and the Vardnili 1 waterways and canal. EIB is co-financing the project alongside a loan of €20 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and a grant of €5 million ($6.7 million) from the EU Neighbourhood Investment Facility.


A research report, “Indian Power Sector Analysis,” indicates its hydro capacity is set to double by 2017, mainly due to start up of new projects. India’s hydro potential is estimated at 300 GW, of which only 145 GW can be exploited, according to market research and information analysis firm RNCOS. Demand for power in India is driven by rapid industrialization and urbanization, RNCOS says. To help provide this power, the Indian government has invested in new hydro projects in the North Eastern region that will provide about 14 GW of capacity.

To further aid development, India’s Central Electricity Regulatory Commission announced in September 2010 that hydro and other renewable energy projects with a capacity of at least 50 MW are eligible for grid connectivity. Smaller individual projects also can be eligible if they collectively have an aggregate installed capacity of 50 MW or more and if the owners mutually agree to undertake operational and commercial responsibilities for the work involved.

In August 2010, commercial operation began of all three units of the 120 MW Sewa 2 project. With this commissioning, the installed capacity of NHPC Limited (formerly National Hydroelectric Power Corporation) reached 5,295 MW. The project is on the Sewa River in Jammu and Kashmir.

Another recently commissioned project is the 192 MW Allain Duhangan in Himachal Pradesh. The run-of-river project on the Allain and Duhangan rivers is owned by Allain Duhangan Hydro Project Limited. The project, which began operating in April 2010, cost about US$192 million to develop. It will operate as base load during the summer and rainy seasons and as peaking plant in the winter and non-monsoon months.

NHPC has 10 Indian hydro projects under construction with a total capacity of more than 4,500 MW. One of these is the 800 MW Parbati 2 on the Parbati River in Himachal Pradesh. This run-of-river facility features a powerhouse with four Pelton turbine-generator units and is expected to be commissioned in March 2013. Another is the 240 MW Uri 2 in Jammu and Kashmir. Expected to be complete in 2011, the project was originally commissioned in 2005 but was set back in an October 2005 earthquake.

Hydropower generator Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd. (SJVN) announced in April 2010 that it plans to increase its capacity from 1,500 MW to 6,500 MW over five years through investments in new projects, upgrading existing projects, and building other renewable projects. The company’s expansion plan includes the 412 MW Rampur, the 775 MW Luhri, and the 1,020 MW Khab in Himachal Pradesh. SJVN also is involved in the 252 MW Devsari, the 45 MW Jakhol Sankri, and the 59 MW Naitwar Mori hydro projects.

Himachal Pradesh Power Corp. Ltd. (HPCC) is moving forward with plans to build 450 MW Shongtong-Karcham on the Satluj River. Shongtong-Karcham is one of four run-of-river projects HPPC is developing under the Multi-Tranche Financing Facility Himachal Clean Power Development program funded by the Asian Development Bank. The other three projects are the 243 MW Integrated Kashang (Stages 1-4) on the Kashang River, the 111 MW Sawra Kuddu on the Pabbar River, and the 100 MW Sainj (or Sanj) on the Sainj River.


As of August 2010, Laos had 14 hydro plants with total capacity of 2,540 MW. Electricity sector leaders say the country will build at least two hydro plants every year until 2020. One such project is 322 MW Xekaman 1 on the Xekaman River in the Attopu Province. To accelerate development of this project, Viet-Laos Power Joint Stock Company and Laos Electricity Corp. struck a deal in May 2010 to establish Xekaman 1 Electricity Co. Ltd. The project is expected to cost US$441 million.

The 1,070 MW Nam Theun 2 project, the largest hydro facility in Laos, was inaugurated in December 2010. The US$1.45 billion project is co-owned by Electricite de France, the Lao government, Electricity Generating Public Co. of Thailand, and Italian-Thai Development. The plant, on the Nam Theun River, first began supplying power to neighboring Thailand in March 2010. This project is expected to contribute US$2 billion to the Lao treasury over its first 25 years of operation. Commercial export of 1 GW to Thailand began in March 2010.

The first of six turbines began operating at 2,400 MW Son La in Vietnam in December 2010. The plant is expected to be fully operational by 2012.

In August 2010, operation began at the 100 MW Nam Lik 1-2 plant in Vientiane Province. The project is owned 90% by China International Water Electric Corporation (CWE) and 10% by Electricite du Laos. This project cost US$150 million to develop. CWE will operate the project for 25 years before transferring it to the government of Laos.

A consortium of Thai power supplier Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding and South Korean companies SK Construction and Korea Western Power signed an agreement in August 2010 to build a US$900 million plant in southern Laos. The memorandum of understanding was between the consortium and Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, which will sell the output. SK Construction is financing and building the plant. Korea Western will maintain the 390 MW plant. Construction will begin in 2013, and the consortium would operate the plant for 27 years.

In addition, China Southern Power Grid will build a national power grid and a hydro project in Laos. The company, the state-owned power distributor in China’s five southern provinces, will build the 168 MW Nam Tha 1 project in Bokeo Province, as well as investing in and constructing a grid network in Laos. The project is expected to begin generating electricity in 2012.


In March 2010, the Ministry of Water and Power announced plans to launch a hydro construction campaign that would help Pakistan strengthen its power supply capabilities. Under this campaign, as many as 32 small and medium projects will be built to bridge the gap between supply and demand for electricity.

One small hydro project under development in Pakistan is the 2.6 MW Machai facility. The project, in the Northwest Frontier Province, is to be completed in 18 months. In addition, the government is moving forward on plans to build five small hydroelectric projects in Punjab Province. The projects, located on irrigation canal falls, are part of an ADB-funded initiative to develop indigenous renewable sources of energy. The facilities are 7.4 MW Marala, 4.04 MW Deg Outfall, 5.38 MW Chainwali, 4.16 MW Okara, and 2.82 MW Pakpattan.

One large project being considered is a 960 MW extension of 3,478 MW Tarbela Dam on the Indus River. The dam was completed in 1974 and included two tunnels designed for irrigation. Mott MacDonald is carrying out a feasibility study of using the one of these tunnels for power generation through the addition of two 480 MW turbine-generator units. This work will require ensuring the extension does not affect irrigation or sediment management. The Tarbela 4th Extension project is due for completion in 2016 and has a capital value of about US$500 million.

Even larger is the 4,320 MW Dasu proposal on the Indus River. Including a 223 meter-tall roller-compacted-concrete dam with eight power tunnels and average annual output of 21,334 GWh, Pakistan’s Water and Power Development Authority will develop the project.

Private companies also are looking at Pakistan. The 84 MW New Bong Escape project is the first private hydro development in the country to reach financial close. UK-based Mott MacDonald is lender’s engineer for a consortium. The project, sponsored by Laraib Energy Ltd., is expected to be complete in 2013.


Significant hydro work is taking part in this island nation. In September 2010, full operations began at the 42.5 MW Sibulan project. Owned by Aboitiz Power Corp., the project includes two cascading run-of-river plants that harness the Sibulan and Baroring rivers. The project is intended to help address growing demand.

One project under construction is 240 MW Agus III on the Agus River in Mindanao Province. Agu Hydro Power Corp. held a groundbreaking ceremony for this US$750 million project in April 2010. Funded through a loan from the Exim Bank of China, it is expected to be completed in four years.

Oriental Energy and Power Generation Corp. received approval in May 2010 from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to proceed with the 18 MW Timbaban project. This is the first of five small hydro facilities set to be developed by the company. The plants, with a combined generation capacity of 55 MW, include the 15 MW Culaman and plants on the upper, middle, and lower cascades of the Odiongan River with total capacity of 22 MW.

And, feasibility studies are under way for a pumped-storage addition to the 360 MW Magat project on Luzon. The project, owned by SN Aboitiz Power, would add 90 to 180 MW at the dam.

In August 2010, First Gen Corp. was preparing to perform a feasibility study of the Cabadbaran project on the Cabadbaran River. The run-of-river project would have a capacity of 14 to 20 MW and is targeted to be commissioned in 2014. First Gen is privately held with an installed capacity of 2,887.4 MW, accounting for a fifth of the country’s total. In March 2010, the company indicated it planned to spend about US$1.5 billion over three to five years to increase hydropower and other generation by 1 GW.

Another company planning to invest in renewable energy development in the country is PNOC Renewables Corp., a unit of Philippine National Oil Corp. The company announced in July 2010 that it plans to spend more than US$335 million to develop hydro. Feasibility studies are under way on seven projects with a combined capacity of about 200 MW.

Rehabilitation also is an important area of work at hydro projects in the Philippines. SN Aboitiz Power-Benguet Inc. is refurbishing the 100 MW Binga project to increase plant capacity to 120 MW, to be completed by 2014. The company also is rehabilitating the 75 MW Ambuklao project work to increase capacity to 105 MW, with work to be completed by the last quarter of 2011.


In August 2010, commercial operations began at the 16 MW Damlapinar project on the Goksu River in Turkey. The plant, owned and operated by AES-IC Ictas Energy, cost US$65 million. The company also is working to complete the downstream 28 MW Kepezkaya project and the 18 MW Kumkoy project.

The 1,200 MW Ilisu Dam project is being built on the Tigris River. Ilisu is part of the Southeast Anatolia Project, a US$32 billion plan to develop the country’s southeast and east regions. The €1.2 billion (US$1.48 billion) project is controversial because it will flood about 80 villages and hamlets, as well as the remains of the ancient city of Hasankeyf.

The 236 MW Arkun plant is under construction on the Coruh River in Turkey. Owned by Enerjisa Power Generation Co., it will provide 800 GWh a year. In November 2010, Alstom received a contract to engineer, supply, and install three 76.6 MW vertical Francis turbines, three generators, and other equipment.

IC Ictas Holding said in November 2010 it will invest US$1.14 billion in 17 hydro plants in the country with a total capacity of 510 MW. Construction of four of the plants is complete. One being built is Bagistas, expected to cost US$338 million and produce 500 GWh annually.

In addition, Statkraft A.S. is developing the 102 MW Kargi plant on the Kizilirmak River in Corum Province. Scheduled to be complete by the end of 2013, investment in the project is about €250 million (US$341 million).


Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) is the primary organization involved in hydro activity in Vietnam. For example, the first of six turbines at EVN’s 2,400 MW Son La project began operating in December 2010. Construction of this US$2 billion project began in December 2005, and it is expected to be fully operational by 2012. In October 2010, Cavico Hydropower completed construction at EVN’s 180 MW Dong Nai 3 project on the Dong Nai River in Dac Nong Province.

Many projects are under construction by EVN. These include 340 MW Dong Nai 4 in Lam Dong Province, in which EVN has invested about US$301 million. Another is the 170 MW A Luoi project on the A Sap River in Thua Thien Hue Province. The project is expected to generate about 686 GWh annually and provide total revenue of US$53 million.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in January 2011 for construction of the 1,200 MW Lai Chau project in Lai Chau Province. This EVN project is expected to cost US$1.8 billion and begin generating electricity in 2017.

And in October 2010, EVN awarded Sinohydro Corp. Ltd. several contracts to provide engineering and civil works for the 156 MW Song Bung 4 project on the Song Bung River in Quang Nam Province. The contracts have a total combined value of US$92.7 million. Song Bung 4 is expected to be completed in 2013. The 100 MW Song Bung 2 project, on the Vu Gia-Thu Bon River in Quang Nam Province, is expected to cost US$183 million to develop. The project will provide 426 GWh annually. Construction of the EVN project is expected to be complete in 2014.

Another group, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, is developing a 20 MW hydro project at Portal No. 2 of the reservoir of the Ngan Truoi irrigation dam project in Ha Tinh Province. Construction is due to complete within 24 months and total investment should be about US$167 million.

Vietnam is rare among Asian countries in that it is working to develop pumped-storage. The 1,500 MW project will be located in Son La Province, and construction work will begin in 2013. It is expected to be operational in 2018. Government officials gave in-principle approval in June 2010.


As the diverse projects listed in this article show, Asia is a hotbed of hydro activity. Although the above nine countries are experiencing the most activity in this arena, many others are advancing development of new hydro projects or rehabilitation of existing facilities. This work will expand the availability of this valuable renewable power source, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, and contribute to the economic welfare of the region.


1Hydropower: A Key to Prosperity in the Growing World, http://www.usbr.gov/power/data/hydbroch.pdf.

2Energy Outlook for Asia and the Pacific,” Asian Development Bank and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, see: www.adb.org/documents/books/energy-outlook/default.asp.

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