VIENTIANE, June 4 (Xinhua) -- The Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines is trying to cut electricity prices so that power is affordable for local residents and businesses.

Many consumers in Laos have been complaining about their escalating electricity bills. The tariff is high when compared to neighboring countries, Lao Minister for Energy and Mines Khammany Inthirath, acknowledged at the first quarter meeting of the energy and mining sector held in Lao capital Vientiane on Monday, local daily Vientiane Times reported on Tuesday.

The meeting held on Monday to Tuesday is attended by representatives of the energy and mining sector as well as investors and development partners. They are taking this opportunity to discuss on the sector's development plans and targets.

Topics up for discussion include achievements of state projects to ensure regulation, quality, and reasonable pricing of electricity. Cost structures, safety inspections at plants and expansion of the electricity network, its stations and transmission lines are also discussed.

In this year, the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines is expecting to complete 20 hydropower plants with an installed capacity of 2,707 MW. This will produce around 33,874 million kWh, worth about 16,575 billion kip (over 1,9 billion U.S. dollars). Electricity generated for export is expected to reach 25,625 million kWh, worth about 1,45 billion U.S. dollars.

Seven transmission lines are expected to be completed in the near future, including two that are 230 kV. Another five 115 kV transmission lines are currently under construction.

The Lao ministry is focusing on developing a renewable energy supply so that the country is less dependent on imports from other countries.

Speaking at the meeting, Khammany said Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the energy and mining sector was 28,247 billion kip (about 3,2 billion U.S. dollars) in 2018, an increase of 11 percent over 2017.

Laos currently has 63 operational hydropower plants with an installed capacity of 7,213 MW. These plants are able to produce 37,035 kWh of electricity a year, Khammany added.