Laos Energy and Environment Facts

Natural resources, energy and environment

Laos is rich in hydropower, timber and minerals such as iron ore, copper, coal, tin, gold, precious stones and also plaster, zinc, nickel, silver, lead and more. Since the turn of the millennium, the extraction of mainly hydropower has increased substantially.

The Lao State has entered into a series of agreements with foreign companies on the exploitation of natural resources. As a result, the mining industry has grown sharply and now accounts for around one fifth of the country’s GDP.

  • COUNTRYAAH: Major exports by Laos with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.

Laos is investing heavily in expanding hydropower in order to export electricity. The country aims to become “Asia’s battery”. In 2019, some 60 hydroelectric power plants were in use and some 40 were being built. Hydropower represents almost all electricity generation in the country. Electricity is now one of Lao’s most important export goods. Most of the electricity is sold to Thailand. Other buyers are Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Myanmar.

The largest electricity producer was for a long time the Nam Ngum hydroelectric plant north of Vientiane, but in 2010 a significantly larger power plant was commissioned in central Laos, Nam Theun 2. In 2012, Laos launched a controversial major building in the Mekong River, the Xayaburi Dam. The building was met by protests from environmental activists as well as neighboring countries Vietnam and Cambodia, partly because it threatens the availability of fish, which are basic food for many people along the river. The dam was opened in 2019 and has mainly been financed with loans from Thailand, where the electricity produced in the dam is exported.

  • Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, LA stands for Laos. Visit itypeusa for more information about Laos.

The reverse of the rapid exploitation of Laos rivers was made visible in July 2018 when a hydroelectric dam burst into the Xe Pian River with more than 30 dead as a result. Most died of the flood that washed over seven villages downstream. Thousands of villagers lost their homes. The day before the accident, a South Korean company had warned of cracks in the dam.

Today, Lao’s electricity grid is expanded in virtually the entire country. In 1995, the network only reached 15 percent of the country.

Almost half of Laos is covered by forest, compared to almost three quarters just over 50 years ago. Timber is one of the country’s most important export products, but too fast harvesting combined with widespread illegal deforestation has led to land degradation, mainly in northern Laos.


Carbon dioxide emissions in total

1 955 thousand tonnes (2014)

Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant

0.3 ton (2014)

The share of energy from renewable sources

59.3 percent (2015)



President Obama visits Laos

September 8

As the first US president, Barack Obama visits Laos. He does so in conjunction with the regional cooperation organization Asean holding a summit there. Alongside the meeting, Obama pledges $ 90 million in aid to Laos over three years, money to use to clear the undetected bombs that remain after the 1970s war. Obama says the United States has a “moral obligation” to help Laos heal the wounds after the war. The amount is relatively large, with the United States contributing a total of $ 100 million over the past 20 years to Lao’s recovery.


New political leadership, the same policy

April 19

The National Assembly formally appoints a new president, a new prime minister and a new party chairman, who take up their positions. President and party chairman becomes Vice President Bounnhang Vorachith while Prime Minister goes to Thongloun Sisoulith, Soviet-trained Politburo member and former Foreign Minister. The change of leader troika is not expected to entail any political course change.

Elections are held for the National Assembly

April 4th

When new members are elected to the National Assembly, turnout is set at 98 percent.


US Secretary of State visits Laos

January 25

US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Laos to talk, among other things, about the problem of the many undetected US bombs remaining in Laotian land since the Vietnam War in the 1970s. Kerry also speaks with Lao’s state leadership about China’s growing influence in Southeast Asia.

Two Chinese dead in suspected bombing

January 24th

Two Chinese nationals are killed and another injured in an explosion in central Laos, state Chinese news agency Xinhua said. Chinese diplomats suspect it is a bomb attack and require an investigation. Chinese authorities state that the three victims are in Laos to work. The deed is carried out while US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Laos.

The state leadership is about to be replaced

January 22

The Communist Party holds a congress for four days to appoint new members of the Politburo and the Central Committee (see Political system). The congress lays the foundation for a shift in state leadership, as both the president and the prime minister as well as the party’s secretary general do not stand for re-election. Vice President Bounnhang Vorachith is elected new Secretary General.

Outbreaks of polio lead to an emergency permit

January 21st

The government faces an emergency permit for six months due to a polio outbreak, the Vietnamese news agency reports. At least five people have died in the outbreak, which is the first in Laos in 15 years.

Laos Energy and Environment Facts

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