- By 2017, 90% of Lao PDR’s population gained access to electricity—a significant jump from 15% in 1995.
- Making the cost of the initial electricity connection affordable for the poor has been crucial to this success.
- ESMAP’s Power to the Poor program helped provide interest-free loans to female-headed households, enabling 83,000 of them to get a connection.
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, a mountainous landlocked country in Southeast Asia, has scored a remarkable achievement. In just over two decades, from 1995 to 2017, it managed to increase national access to electricity from 16 percent to more than 90 percent of the population. A sustained effort to make electricity affordable for those too poor to pay initial connection charges has been key feature of the achievement. Solid preparatory studies and disaggregated data on specific barriers to electrification for female-headed households were critical for targeting and impact evaluation.
This note presents the Power to the Poor Program piloted by the Rural Electrification Project (Phase 1 and 2) in Lao PDR. The program provided poor households with interest-free loans that enabled them to obtain a connection to the grid and wire their dwellings. Households headed by women were a focus of the program.