In the past decade, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has sharply ramped up its operational support for clean energy and climate change adaptation and mitigation projects and will continue to do so as part of the goals outlined in its long-term strategic framework 2008-2020 (Strategy 2020). Hydropower - abundant in a number of countries in developing Asia, including in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) - has increasingly played a part in that and will play a large role in the region's clean energy development and in ADB's clean energy portfolio in the future too. Private sector participation in hydropower development is set to grow given governments' inabilities to fund all projects themselves. At the same time, ADB is committed, via its new Public Communications Policy (PCP), to increasing the transparency of its operations and ensuring proactive development and other external communication to better share knowledge and encourage two-way communication with all stakeholders, including project-affected people , donors, and civil society, about ADB projects.
This Small-scale Capacity Development Technical Assistance (S-CDTA) is proposed to support the successful implementation of the Nam Ngum 3 (NN3) hydropower project, one of the highest dams in the world. It will increase knowledge-sharing with project-affected people, project stakeholders, and broader interested parties through a multi-pronged communication plan including targetd communication projects for and about project-affected people and multi-media documentation to promote wider understanding inside and outside of ADB of the need and value of strong safeguards and communications activities.
This technical assistance (TA) would mark the first time that a sustained holistic development- and multi-media communications plan has been proposed to support a specific ADB project. As such it marks an innovative approach to communications for ADB and may be used to build capacity internally and externally and replicated for future large hydropower projects.
|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
Asia's energy demand is growing apace and is forecast to rise 2.4% per year through 2030, faster than the 1.5% global rate of demand. The International Energy Agency estimates that if current trends are maintained, energy use in Asia will increase 96% by 2030. Asia would then represent 37% of the world's energy consumption and produce 43% of global energy-related CO2 emissions.
Access to energy is critical to development and economic growth in emerging countries but to avoid a buildup of harmful greenhouse gas emissions and ensure sustainable development and long-term economic growth, demand needs to be met by clean energy sources, including hydropower.
A third of all Lao PDR citizens still live on less than $1.25 a day and development of hydropower is a critical component of the Government of Lao PDR's goal to take the country out of least developed country status by 2020. Thailand, on the other hand, urgently needs to find new sources of energy to fuel economic growth as indigenous gas discovery cannot keep pace with demand. Around half of Thailand's greenhouse gas emissions currently come from power generation. The NN3 hydropower project will provide up to 2,072 gigawatt hours of clean energy to Thailand, avoid 1.0 million tons per year of carbon dioxide emissions, and generate $770 million in revenues for socio-economic development in Lao PDR.
However, hydropower projects can be controversial as they disturb the existing environmental, social, and cultural status quo. A lack of information or opposition by affected people, donors, civil society organizations, non-government organizations (NGOs), and/or media can lead to higher project costs, delays in implementation (and delays in CO2 savings) or, in a worst-case scenario, cancellation of a project. These raise potentially significant reputational risks for ADB. Financial and reputational concerns may deter future investors, particularly those in the private sector, from investing in similar projects, thus delaying the shift by developing Asia to sustainable energy sources. ADB is currently considering a number of other hydropower projects in Lao PDR and elsewhere.
Production and distribution of locally targeted informational and educational materials to affected people and local stakeholders, where appropriate, will ensure avenues for two-way dialogue, helping reduce the risks of on-the-ground problems arising from a lack of culturally appropriate information. Multi-media products, meanwhile, will document the project benefits and clearly lay out ADB's application of best practices on environment and social safeguards, building understanding of the value of both these factors. Provision of information to stakeholders - including to potentially opposing groups or individuals - will help to keep the project on track.
Implementing an exemplar development communication strategy for affected people and disseminating multi-media products can help risk proof this Clean Development Mechanism-eligible project, help to shape public opinion about hydropower, and catalyze policy change. Dissemination of these communication strategies and communications products will also help build the communication capacity of ADB staff, the private sector project sponsors and other project stakeholders, encouraging greater project transparency. This greater transparency in ADB's procedures and broader stakeholder access to ADB's procedural information can be aped in other large hydropower projects going forward, helping to ensure smooth project implementation. In the longer run, this can contribute to clean energy development, sustainable growth, and poverty reduction in Asia.