RANGOON — The World Bank approved an interest-free loan to Burma of US$400 million on Wednesday to aid the country’s ambitious National Electrification Plan and its goal of ensuring nationwide access to electricity by 2030.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Bank said the loan would assist expansion of Burma’s national electricity grid and facilitate the building of “off-grid power solutions in rural areas.”
“This $400 million project will help connect towns to the grid and turn on lights in schools, clinics and remote villages. We welcome and support Myanmar’s goal to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030,” said the World Bank’s Southeast Asia Country Director Ulrich Zachau in the press release.
Over 70 percent of people in Burma currently have no access to electricity, the World Bank said.
Yan Lin, chief engineer at the Yangon Electricity Supply Corporation (YESC), told The Irrawaddy that the country’s electrification plan would proceed in two phases, with priority given to expanding electricity access to towns and villages within two miles of the existing national grid.
In the second phase, power distribution networks would be expanded to areas within five miles of grid access, with the final aim of nationwide coverage.
The World Bank forecasts the six-year project will benefit over 6 million people, bringing electricity to more than 1.2 million households throughout the country.
“Rangoon will get full electricity coverage early,” said Yan Lin, adding that 74 percent of the commercial capital was covered by the national grid.
“We expect it will get [full access] as early as 2019,” he said.
In January, YESC pledged to provide 24-hour electricity to residential areas in Rangoon during the city’s sweltering summer. That promise proved optimistic, however, with residents complaining of ongoing blackouts which the city’s electricity authorities blamed on high rates of consumption.
The country’s biggest city accounts for more than half of the average daily power consumption nationwide—over 2,000 megawatts.
In Burma’s 2014 census, only 32.4 percent of respondents cited electricity as their main source of energy for lighting. Almost 70 percent of respondents said firewood was their primary source of energy for cooking, well ahead of electricity, at 16.4 percent.