Myanmar’s arduous journey to renewable energy

Despite the prospect of fresh economic sanctions, Myanmar’s Ministry of Information (MOI) and Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations (MIFER) released a joint press release last week claiming that the government intends to enhance renewable energy development and foreign investment.

The decision comes in light of recent unspecified media claims concerning energy shortages in the nation and the leaving of some foreign energy corporations, according to the two ministries.

“A spike in global liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices, aggravated by the Russia-Ukraine war and a lower kyat currency, as well as terrorist operations associated to the People’s Defensive Force (PDF),” the administration claimed, alluding to the democratically elected National Unity Government (NUG) armed wing, which was deposed by a military coup on February 1, 2021.

“PDF terrorists did blow up electric lines from the Lawpita hydroelectric project in Kayah State, in addition to urging a general strike of utility payments since 2021. These acts contributed to disruptions that harmed ordinary citizens, particularly small companies.”

The administration also stated that it will increase electricity generation from oil and natural gas sources in the country through new investments.

The 30 MW Nyaungbin Gyi solar and 40 MW Letpanhla projects have been finished, according to the two ministries, while 13 sun power projects totaling 370 MW have been initiated.

“Three other solar power projects with a total capacity of 390 megawatts are also in the works.” Wherever possible, special efforts are made to support floating solar installations, rooftop solar initiatives, plus small and medium-sized projects. Tenders are also being sought for 18 solar power facilities with a combined capacity of 635 MW, in addition to existing discussions for 11 solar projects with a combined capacity of 300 MW, according to their statement.

 

Difficulties

Despite the Myanmarese government’s confidence, large-scale solar production appears to be proving tough. Sungrow, a Chinese PV inverter manufacturer, reported in its financial results last week that the project it won in Myanmar’s first solar tender, launched in September 2020, has been canceled.

The utility solar installations selected in the above-mentioned bid were still well behind their development dates, according to the Irrawaddy news website, which is controlled by the Irrawaddy Publishing Group (IPG), which was created in 1990 by Burmese exiles in Thailand.

“Myanmar’s military leadership is not pushing hard enough, or hard enough at all, on Chinese enterprises contracted to begin solar power production, regardless of the fact that they are many months behind schedule,” the media outlet stated, alluding to the fact that the military coup occurred 4 months after the bid was finalized.

“According to the agreements, the companies were expected to begin operations within six months. The Myanmar military, on the other hand, overthrew the NLD administration in a February coup just as the bidders were about to sign power purchase deals with the MOEE (Ministry of Electricity and Energy).”

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