According to data from 2020, Myanmar has an electrification rate of only 56%, the lowest in Southeast Asia. In some rural areas, many citizens still rely on kerosene, candles, gas, batteries, and power generators. The issue of electricity supply in Myanmar contributes to the lack of development in the country, where many consumers don’t have access to expanded infrastructure and energy sources.
To achieve 100% electricity access by 2030, Myanmar must double its power generation capacity in the next five years. The National Electrification Plan of the government in 2014 highlighted the importance of access to sustainable energy resources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the country and strengthen the country’s preparedness for climate disasters.
What opportunities await investors in the electricity sector of Myanmar? How can businesses expand energy sources in the country?
Myanmar is mainly powered by hydroelectricity, which supplies 52% of the total generation mix from the country’s energy sources. Natural gas is the second-largest resource, contributing 45%.
However, the government has been dealing with transmission, distribution, and generation issues, specifically those from government-owned enterprises in the energy sector. This has dampened the growth of the industry for some time, affecting both businesses and households in the country.
In 2021, the Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) reported that power consumption requirements in Myanmar increase by 15% to 17% every year. At the time, there were 83 power plants in the country, 62 of which are hydropower plants, 20 that are gas-fired plants, and a single coal plant. The ministry is also encouraging foreign investment in the country’s energy sector, presenting opportunities for further electrification in Myanmar.
The MOEE, which has initiated projects to improve electrification in more parts of Myanmar, has also presented options for foreign investors looking to initiate hydropower projects in the country.
This year, they have started seeking feasibility studies for four possible hydropower projects in the far south of Myanmar. They have identified the Tanintharyi river basin as the proposed location of the projects, identifying two out of its three sub-basins as the site of future hydropower plants.
Unlike Myanmar, most Southeast Asian countries are heavily reliant on fossil fuels for their energy sector. Coal remains a major energy source, and gas is also historically the most common choice for nations.
Businesses looking to invest in the energy sector in Southeast Asia can look to Myanmar’s hydroelectricity programs that have helped provide power to half of the country’s population. Many opportunities lie in helping the country achieve universal electricity access in the next five years.
The rest of Southeast Asia will benefit from renewable energy portfolios like the one that Myanmar has. With hydropower as the most viable option for cleaner energy sources, the potential for its growth in Southeast Asia remains great. Finding river basins that can be used to set up hydropower plants without risking the greater areas around it will be key to developing this resource in the region.