Burma Can Renegotiate Dam Deals to Keep More Power, Says Chinese Firm

Burma energy

Construction going ahead at the Myitsone Dam in 2010 before President Thein Sein ordered a suspension on the project. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — A Chinese firm that signed deals with Burma’s former military rulers to build hydro dams said it could renegotiate the terms, which would see some projects supplying 90 percent of power to China, in order to allow more power for domestic consumption.

Burma’s unreliable power supply is undermining economic development in Asia’s second-poorest country, which is emerging from 49 years of autocratic mismanagement under military rule.

There has also been increased sensitivity in Burma about whether it has been selling off too big a share of its rich resources to neighboring countries, particularly China.

“If the new government thinks there is more power demand now in Myanmar, then of course there is no problem to meet the local demand first,” Sun Hongshui, vice president of the Power Construction Corp of China, told Reuters.

Despite having abundant natural gas and hydropower potential, only around a quarter of Burma’s 60 million people have access to electricity, among the lowest rates in Asia, according to an October 2012 Asian Development Bank report.

Burma’s semi-civilian government has promised to supply electricity to the entire country by 2030.

Sun said his company was willing to renegotiate agreements in order to help the government achieve that objective.

“If there is extra electricity, maybe it can be exported to China or another neighboring country,” he said on the sidelines of an energy conference last week in Yangon, the commercial capital.

The Ministry of Electric Power declined to comment.

Energy Mix

Burma’s economy should grow 8.5 percent this fiscal year, higher than previously forecast mainly due to rising gas output and investment, the International Monetary Fund has said.

“Without a reliable, growing supply of electric power, the manufacturing industry especially probably wouldn’t be attracted to this country and that would hamper economic growth,” said Kyosuke Inada, senior representative in Burma for the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

“And economic growth and political reform are closely related.” JICA is working with the government on increasing power supplies.

Total generation of electric power during the last fiscal year was 13.048 billion kwh, up from 10.964 billion kwh in the 2012-13 fiscal year and 8.625 billion kwh in 2011-2012, according to the state-run Central Statistical Organization (CSO).

Burma’s electrification plan would see a multi-prong approach involving hydro, gas, coal, and renewable. “We will discuss with the government to find best mix,” said Inada.

Private consultant Thoung Win, who sits on the government’s energy development committee, said that by 2030, Burma may generate about 30 percent of its power from gas and coal fired plants, 30 percent from renewable sources like wind and solar, and 40 percent from hydro.

But Burma will have to balance environmental and social costs in pursuing power projects.

In 2011, President Thein Sein abandoned plans for a $3.6 billion, Chinese-led dam project on the Irrawaddy River after pro-democracy and environmental protests.

6 Responses to Burma Can Renegotiate Dam Deals to Keep More Power, Says Chinese Firm

  1. So what about 90% of the electricity generated goes to Burma and 10% for China? Would the Chinese agree to that? (rhetorical question)
    I still think the dam would damage the whole river downstream. The dams on Maykha are already doing that.

  2. China is not needed at least for now. No communist in on our land, please. Myanmar has been ruined by military idiots plus communist China for too long.

  3. Ha, ha, ha, ha……

    These Chinese know that id there is going to be electricity and fast internet for the opulent people, they will now side with them, the Chinese, even if it means making the Irrawaddy River like foul, filthy, reeking creek or if it entails killing off all these Kachins or Lisu or whoever in the way. Way to go Chinese. The Burmese of low land are now going to side with u=you to kill off all the remaining Kachins.

    Nothing works like “Nga-tae,mar” way. Well done. Thein Sein will be smiling. Eat the cake and have it as well!

  4. The greedy Chinese already have ruined the Maykha river with their dams.

  5. There reason as to why the Burmese are poor. Just read the comments on this site. There minds are clouded to judge by believing the western propagandists’, Reuter in this case, divide and rule strategy.

    Chinese money are not coming! We just dropped a merely one million dollars this year.

  6. Don’t believe on Chinese government , they have been lied on Myanmar people since under military rules. More electricity come out from that dam means more benefit for china , nothing for Myanmar. If they really want to see real benefit for myanmar, they have to support many sectors in Myanmar because they has been taking many natural resources from Myanmar including forest.

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