The Lower Mekong countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam have achieved unprecedented economic growth in recent years, ranging between 5-8 percent. However, this rapid economic expansion has come at a significant social and environmental cost, with growth fueled by increased energy consumption — supplied mostly by hydropower and coal. Poorly planned hydropower plants and an excess buildout of coal power plants represent growing threats to natural resource security in the Lower Mekong and are a source of political tension among these countries. China’s influence as an upstream country heavily investing in downstream power generation projects also looms large. A stable and reliable supply of clean, efficient, and cost-effective energy is fundamental for securing sustainable economic growth and development in the region.
Working with key stakeholders in Lower Mekong countries and with key development partners – such as the governments of the United States, Australia, Japan, and EU – the Southeast Asia Program designs and implements technical and policy solutions that promote regional power trade and more efficiently meet energy demands. More specifically, we make a business case to policymakers for the adoption of new technologies; build technical and decision-making capacity through evidence-based processes and sustained local engagement; collaborate with stakeholders to generate alternative development scenarios that point to a more sustainable future; and lead the public discourse on ways to optimize nexus tradeoffs in Lower Mekong countries.