Mekong Eye

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Let there be light: The Challenge of powering Myanmar

Myanmar aims to achieve national electricity coverage by 2030, but there are big questions about whether that goal can be achieved and what impact it could have on the environment and communities.

Lighting up Myanmar, Htun Lin © World Bank

By Jared Downing

Yangon, May 23, 2016

Frontier Myanmar

When you think about development in Myanmar, consider that only one home in three will have power tonight. The rest will be lit with wax candles or gas lanterns, although almost all of them will be less than ten kilometres from the country’s ageing high-voltage grid.

Those connected to the grid can expect to continue suffering more blackouts as the country’s outdated hydroelectric and gas-fired power plants struggle, and fail, to keep up with surging demand. Myanmar can generate 4.6 gigawatts a year, about one-eighth of output in Thailand.

Demand for power in Myanmar has tripled in the last decade, but consumption is among the lowest in Asia.

The government has set out to provide power to everyone. By 2030, it aims to quintuple its installed capacity – the maximum amount its infrastructure can theoretically generate – to 25 gigawatts. To achieve that objective it will need scores of new power plants, thousands of kilometres of transmission lines, and about US$30 billion.

There’s uncertainty about how the National League for Democracy government will realise such an ambitious objective.

Read more at Frontier Myanmar

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