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Myanmar releasing renewable potential

In Myanmar, only about 30 percent of the population have access to electricity. But what it does have in abundance are natural resources. Harnessing these to generate clean energy in every corner of the country is now on the government’s agenda.

Sandar Oo has been running her chapati stall in Yangon without electricity for over the last four years. Her customers also adapt to the darkness as they tuck into her food. Giving her customers their change when they pay, prove to be most challenging in the dark. She has tried to be creative in using light reflected from the shops nearby to operate her business.

With plenty of land at its disposal, the country is now working to build solar farms to augment the electricity supply. Energy from the solar farms can also be channelled to the national grid for use in other parts of the country.

Yan Lin, chief engineer at Yangon City Electricity Supply Board, said: “Now the study for the solar farm is nearly 100 megawatts to produce power from solar energy. The percentage of the solar energy is 10-15 percent of the energy systems. Maybe about 2017, we can contribute the power from the solar farms.

“Power is essential for the living standards. We start power distribution to the rural or the off-grid area – we can increase the living standards of the public.”

Solar panels are easy to install, making them ideal as an interim energy source in rural areas that will remain off-grid for a few years.

Harnessing water for hydropower is also being explored.

Thoung Win, member of the National Energy Development Committee, said: “We have wet seasons. With the rain water, with the mountain ranges and the river valleys… these water resources are very good for us.

“For the country’s electrification, the current rate is very low in the renewables. But we have roughly targeted about 20 percent in our energy mix. And 2030, this is the final aim of 100 percent electricity access – about 35 percent of renewable energy will be there.”

By 2016, the government hopes that hydropower will generate about 50 percent of its power supply, with the rest coming from other sources like solar panels and coal.

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