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Society, environment at heart of all Greater Mekong power generation projects: panel discussion

VIENTIANE, May 21 (Xinhua) -- Social and environmental considerations must be at the heart of all major power generation development projects from genesis and up to a century hence, a gathering of international power sector representatives, investors and experts in Laos' capital have heard.

The comments were made in a panel discussion at the three-day Greater Mekong Subregion Power Summit and Expo 2015 being held in Vientiane set to conclude Thursday.

Addressing the audience to a panel discussion, Marubeni Asian Power Singapore Senior Vice President Cyril Cabanes said to manage risk, environmental and social concerns (ESC) had to be high on the agenda of investors in the sector.

To adequately manage risk factors, ESC had to be considered proactively from an earlier stage and further into the future than ever before, he said.

"ESC has become higher in the development process.. as a developer you have to manage this and be proactive about the way you address these issues," Cabanes said

Cabanas said activist groups and environmental organisations had been more successful in setting an agenda and influencing public opinion on ESC than the industry, particularly in applying non-traditional methods including social media and divestment campaigns to influence public opinion and set the agenda.

Highlighting the European post-war power sector development experience, GDF Suez Executive Vice President Mario Savastano said the long potential life of projects meant investors were looking to minimise risk from environmental and social considerations further into future, theoretically up to centuries hence.

"You will be an actor for many decades when you build a big project," Savastano said.

Panel members also discussed prospects for both coal and renewable energy in the developing region, particularly in light of developments in decentralised power grids and increasing commercialization of storage technologies as typified by the high- profile recently-launched Tesla "Powerwall" battery system.

The panel discussion was one of several on multiple facets of power generation and distribution development and investment held in conjunction with a trade expo featuring international and Chinese exhibitors active in the sector including China International Water and Electric Corporation, Harbin Electric Corporation and Shanghai Electric.

Organised by Neoventure in conjunction with the Laos' Ministry of Planning and Investment, the GMS Power Summit and Expo 2015 comes as the sub-region home to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and China's Yunnan Province increases and deepens cross- border power linkages and markets at a time of greater regional integration.

It also comes as Laos welcomes projects that policymakers hope will see the country sure up its own domestic supplies and boost exports in an attempt to become a so-called "Battery of Asia".

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