Myanmar needs $26b to patch power grid

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Yangon at night: Apart from the illuminated Shwedagon pagoda, the city is mainly in the dark

Electricity-starved Myanmar wants to beef up its dilapidated power grid with investments of $26 billion over the next decade, local media reported.

The country currently can only supply power to 25 per cent of its 60 million population. To supply all people and the growing industrial sector, the system would have to churn out more than 16,000 megawatts a year, a plan by the Myanmar energy ministry says.

According to Vishal Narain, industry analyst for Frost & Sullivan’s Asia Pacific Energy Practice, Myanmar has an estimated installed power capacity of 2,254 megawatts that has grown annually at a rate of 10 per cent since 2007.

Myanmar has a yearly per capita power consumption of only 104 kwh compared to a consumption of over 2,000 kwh in Thailand and around 600 kwh in Indonesia, according to UN data. The demand for power shot up by 15 per cent in 2012, leading to almost daily blackouts due to an overburdened power grid. With some cables as old as 40 years and more than half the cables transporting power at less than 230 kv, power losses are significant.

President Thein Sein said earlier this year that Myanmar needs to built at least one large hydropower, gas or coal power plant annually. In the meantime, electricity would have to be imported from neighbouring countries.

This year, a number foreign companies have visited Myanmar to discuss electricity projects, including the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, firms from Japan, Canada, China and the US, in particular General Electric as reported by Investvine.

The investment is huge and Myanmar will not be able to shoulder it on its own. Thein Sein identified foreign aid and low-interest foreign loans as the main capital sources to fund the power projects. On government balance sheets, energy-related projects account for a whopping 83 per cent of foreign investment pledges over the period.

Power shortages in Myanmar are causing frequent discontent among the population. Demonstrations against the blackouts are common. In April 2012, Myanmar’s electric power authorities barred industrial zones, factories and workshops from using electricity for a fixed six-hour period during the night in order to create an alternative supply of power for public use. The use of generators is common in factories and households. Adding to the problem is that armed Shan rebels are frequently targeting power grid posts for attacks, as it happened in May 2012 when most of Yangon was cut off from power for hours.

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Yangon at night: Apart from the illuminated Shwedagon pagoda, the city is mainly in the dark

Electricity-starved Myanmar wants to beef up its dilapidated power grid with investments of $26 billion over the next decade, local media reported.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Yangon at night: Apart from the illuminated Shwedagon pagoda, the city is mainly in the dark

Electricity-starved Myanmar wants to beef up its dilapidated power grid with investments of $26 billion over the next decade, local media reported.

The country currently can only supply power to 25 per cent of its 60 million population. To supply all people and the growing industrial sector, the system would have to churn out more than 16,000 megawatts a year, a plan by the Myanmar energy ministry says.

According to Vishal Narain, industry analyst for Frost & Sullivan’s Asia Pacific Energy Practice, Myanmar has an estimated installed power capacity of 2,254 megawatts that has grown annually at a rate of 10 per cent since 2007.

Myanmar has a yearly per capita power consumption of only 104 kwh compared to a consumption of over 2,000 kwh in Thailand and around 600 kwh in Indonesia, according to UN data. The demand for power shot up by 15 per cent in 2012, leading to almost daily blackouts due to an overburdened power grid. With some cables as old as 40 years and more than half the cables transporting power at less than 230 kv, power losses are significant.

President Thein Sein said earlier this year that Myanmar needs to built at least one large hydropower, gas or coal power plant annually. In the meantime, electricity would have to be imported from neighbouring countries.

This year, a number foreign companies have visited Myanmar to discuss electricity projects, including the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, firms from Japan, Canada, China and the US, in particular General Electric as reported by Investvine.

The investment is huge and Myanmar will not be able to shoulder it on its own. Thein Sein identified foreign aid and low-interest foreign loans as the main capital sources to fund the power projects. On government balance sheets, energy-related projects account for a whopping 83 per cent of foreign investment pledges over the period.

Power shortages in Myanmar are causing frequent discontent among the population. Demonstrations against the blackouts are common. In April 2012, Myanmar’s electric power authorities barred industrial zones, factories and workshops from using electricity for a fixed six-hour period during the night in order to create an alternative supply of power for public use. The use of generators is common in factories and households. Adding to the problem is that armed Shan rebels are frequently targeting power grid posts for attacks, as it happened in May 2012 when most of Yangon was cut off from power for hours.

 

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