J. Energy: Rural Electrification Phase I Project (Lao PDR)

(NB: To read more about gender, energy, and CCA, See Sectoral Module G.)

Project Name:Rural Electrification Phase I Project Country:Lao PDR Sector(s):Energy

Implementing Organizations:
Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM), Electricitédu Laos (EdL)

Funding Partners:

Budget (US$):
$46.2 ($36.3 at design;supplemental financing mobilized in 2010)


Project Objectives:
(Source: World Bank 2006a and 2013b)

Project Development Objectives:

  • Increase access to electricity of rural households in villages of targeted provinces
  • Improve the financial performance of the power sector
  • Improve the living standards and increase the income of rural households by providing access to electricity

Project Environmental Objectives:

  • Substantial adoption of off-grid renewable energy in the government’s rural electrification program
  • Increased efficiency of energy supply by EdL and consumption by customers, resulting in greenhouse gas emission reductions as increased hydropower exports substitute for thermal power production in Thailand.

Notable Gender-Related Activities and Processes:
(Sources: GEF 2004;World Bank 2006a and 2013b)

  • A socioeconomic survey was carried out in 2004 to identify benefits from RE, constraints, and location of target villages
  • Training in gender and social analysis of staff in main implementation agencies
  • The project was re-designed during early implementation to target female-headed households, which resulted in a pilot activity that was later adopted as part of the national program.

Notable Gender-Related Results:
(World Bank 2006a)

  • All female-headed households were electrified in participating villages
  • Gender capacity of host country institutions, MEM and EdL, was increased for gender and social analysis skills, and these methodologies were integrated into their regular business processes
  • Improved quality of life for women (i.e., less time spent cooking, going to markets, and lesser drudgery on agricultural activities) and other household members
  • Increased income earning opportunities both for women and men
  • Improved health for all household members
  • Improved women’s sense of security and improved community relations.


Carlsson-Rex, H., and J. Tang. n.d. “Shining a light on the poor and women”. Presented to ESMAP Knowledge Exchange Series.

Energy Sector Management Assistance Program of World Bank (ESMAP). 2013. Integrating gender considerations into energy operations. Knowledge Series 014/13. World Bank/ESMAP, Washington, DC.

Global Environment Facility. 2004. Southern provinces rural electrification II program. Project Executive Summary. GEF, Washington D.C.

World Bank. 2006a. People’s Democratic Republic of Lao –Rural electrification (Phase 1-APL) Project. World Bank, Washington, DC.

———. 2013b. Lao–First phase of the rural electrification project. World Bank, Washington, DC.



World Bank Contacts: Jie Tang (Jtang@worldbank.org), Xiaoping Wang (xwang3@worldbank.org)

1. Introduction

After years of support by such donors as the ADB and the World Bank, the Government of Lao PDR adopted the ambitious goal of electrifying 90 percent of the country’s households by 2020 (i.e., 70 percent by 2010 and 80 percent by 2015) and increasing hydropower exports to neighboring counties. Increasing household connections from about 16 percent in 1995

to about 44 percent in 2004 was already a remarkable achievement in the socioeconomic development of Lao PDR. However, affordability of new electricity connections was one of the main constraints to extend access to the poorest households. The financial situation of EdL, the national electric utility parastatal, had been strongly weakened by the dramatic currency devaluations during the East Asia financial crisis. As its ability to continue the rural electrification program was at risk, in particular for the most remote areas where grid extension is costly, the government was keen to provide subsidies to EdL to achieve its rural electrification goals. Climate change issues were also of great concern: high level of fossil fuels consumption, especially diesel oil, by the industry, transport, and agriculture sectors;methane emissions from paddy fields;use of fuel wood and charcoal for cooking in the rural areas;and need for reforestation and grasslands conservation.

The main components of the program were:

  • Electricity grid extension targeted for 540 villages
  • Off-grid renewable energy for remote villages primarily with solar home systems and micro- and small hydropower
  • Energy efficiency sensitization with all customers (government, domestic, and commercial)
  • Improvements in the technical and financial management of the national utility, in order to reduce technical losses and improve the financial viability of the company
  • Technical assistance of village workers and staff in gender and social analysis as well as in the development of productive uses of electricity.

2. Summary of Project

General description of proposal preparation

The project preparation process did not have a specific gender focus. However, a comprehensive household survey was carried out in 2004 to assess the location of the poorest villages as a priority for electrification. The survey found that women bore the brunt of drudgery for cooking and had the least income-earning opportunities due to lack of access to modern energy services.

Gender integration during project design/formulation and proposal preparation

  • MEM and EdL staff were sent for training on gender, energy, and poverty reduction at an ESMAP/GVEP regional workshop in Cambodia, 2005
  • Implementation agencies’staff were closely associated with the design and analysis of field surveys
  • Survey results were integrated to determine project results indicators and benefits, even though they were not sex-disaggregated.
  • The review by the GEF-Scientific and Technical Evaluation Committee (STEP) identified the need for community workers to help people identify how and where electrification could add value to rural micro-enterprises and also help to create new micro-enterprises. It also identified the need for making micro-credit available to women (e.g., purchasing of electric sewing machines) and for men (e.g., power drills, sanders and small equipment) so that the rural electrification program could improve the quality of life and rural incomes.

Gender integration during project implementation

  • In spite of good baseline information on the differentiated benefits to women and men from rural electrification, the project initially had no gender element.
  • Following a socioeconomic survey carried out in the first year of project implementation (2007), the project was partly redesigned to include a focus on the poorest households, in particular on female-headed households.
  • An innovative pilot program was introduced, called Power to People. Funds were reallocated to it to finance a special subsidy that could improve the affordability of household connections to the poorest households. Most of the poorest households were female headed-households.
  • Given the success of the pilot project, Power to People was scaled up to the national program and additional financing was mobilized from a new donor.
  • MEM and EdL staff were sent for gender training (e.g., the Multilateral Development Bank Regional Workshop on Gender and Infrastructure).
  • EdL took a bottom-up approach for the village screening that was based on social impact indicators and least cost connections.

Key gender-related results

  • Female-headed households benefited proportionately more from the Power to People electrification program than male-headed households. The former represented about 6 percent (2011) of the newly electrified households, but there was an increase of 28 percent in the rate of electrification of female-headed households under the project.
  • The poor and female-headed households felt more integrated into the village community and more respected.
  • Final quantitative goals exceeded initial targets, by 39 percent as compared to initial project design, in terms of electrified villages and households, including female-headed households.
  • The main implementation agencies (MEM and EdL) gained capacity for integrating social and gender analysis into their standard operating procedures and processes.
  • Women and girls engaged in productive activities after dark as a result of lighting.
  • Women’s and men’s agricultural productivity was improved as solar home systems were transported from home to fields to continue cropping activities after dark.
  • Women’s cooking work was facilitated with new appliances.[56]
    Electric rice cookers cooked food more rapidly and cleanly and were more convenient;they also reduced the demand for fuelwood. Refrigerators preserved food and reduce the frequency of women’s trips to markets.
  • The hygiene and health of all family members was improved with refrigerators and the light generated from clean energy rather than candles, kerosene, or diesel.
  • With home and street lighting, security and community relations were greatly improved.
  • New micro-enterprises were started, including those owned or managed by both women and men.

Other key results:

  • The quality of life and incomes of remote ethnic groups improved through improved irrigation conditions, creation of new income opportunities in handcraft, availability of cheap lighting option, and the reduced burdens for water collection and rice dehusking by women and children.
  • The affordability of clean and modern energy was enhanced, both through more efficient production of electricity and more efficient consumption.

3. Conclusions
(Source: Summary of Stakeholders Workshop, 2012, reported in World Bank 2013b;Carlsson-Rex and Tang n.d.)


  • The 2004 household baseline survey provided good socioeconomic data for the project regarding the benefits of rural electrification and affordability issues for proposed project villages.
  • The 2007 survey enabled the redesign of part of the project to reach the poorest households, including female-headed households, and identified other vulnerable groups such as households with disabled people.
  • Periodic effectiveness assessments of the Power to People pilot were carried out in 2010 and 2011 and used to inform final project resource allocations.
  • The government and EdL demonstrated a very strong and sustained commitment to gender and poverty objectives. When donor resources were short, the government and EdL allocated their own resources to continue the Power to People program so that households could benefit equitably from the socioeconomic impact of rural electrification.
  • Donors demonstrated flexibility, starting with project redesign, to allow the pilot Power to People program to reallocate resources and mobilize another donor during implementation.
  • From the stakeholders’perspective, the keys to success were the adoption of ambitious targets (i.e., 80 percent of the country electrified by 2015) with a clearly defined action plan and responsible parties at the central and provincial levels.
  • The Project was also commended for promoting renewable energy for off-grid electrification in addition to grid extension in order to reach out to remote villages and households.
  • The adoption of a participatory consultative approach to select the households to be electrified and benefit from the Power to People subsidies helped achieve the gender objectives and solidify community relations.
  • The project recognized cultural differences of various indigenous groups in the way that the consultations were carried out. Where needed, consultations were structured to first start with the village chief and village councils, then address women and men in separate groups.
  • The project anchored its gender approach by using national and donors’gender policies.

Lessons learned and missed opportunities

  • The 2004 Survey did not systematically collect sex-disaggregated data;by comparison, the 2007 survey identified that female-headed households were amongst the poorest and those left out of rural electrification.
  • No quantified sex-disaggregated indicators were included in the results framework.
  • No socioeconomic survey was undertaken at project completion.
  • Technical assistance on productive uses did not seem to have taken place and accordingly, the full benefits from rural electrification may not have yet been achieved. This gap was to be addressed under the Phase 2 follow-up project, with the support of a $500,000 grant from ESMAP.
  • There was a need for more regular and improved consultations amongst stakeholders and exchanges on progress and issues in rural electrification.
  • Better consultation was needed with SHS users on the size of the SHS, the potential uses of the electricity generated, and the life span of the batteries.
  •  It was difficult to monitor the performance of the private sector operators who were contracted for the off-grid SHS program.
  • The Ministry had a slow response time for handling complaints about Village Energy Managers.

Further Readings

Rohr-Boatman, K., and V. Chanthalinh. 2009. Rapid assessment of the power to the poor pilot project. Electricitédu Laos (EdL), Lao PDR.

World Bank. 2008. Project performance assessment report: Lao People’s Democratic Republic southern provinces rural electrification project. World Bank, Washington, DC.


———. 2011b. Lao PDR power to the people: Twenty years of national electrification. World Bank, Washington DC.