ADB to Provide Loan for Rangoon Power Upgrade  

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 24 November 2015

RANGOON — Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a statement on Tuesday that it would provide a US$80 million loan to “upgrade [Rangoon’s] electricity transmission ring line system,” a project forecast to benefit more than one million customers.

This is a welcome announcement for many residents in heavily populated Rangoon, where more than half of Burma’s total supply of electricity is consumed. The Yangon Electricity Supply Corporation (YESC) previously stated that, starting in October, electricity would be available around the clock, though residents claim that this has yet to happen. The YESC also said last week that technical errors would temporarily cut off electricity in some townships.

ADB’s new initiative, called the Power Transmission Improvement Project, aims to upgrade the Thida-Thaketa-Kyaikasan transmission ring lines from 66 kilovolts (kV) to 230 kV. It will also build two additional substations at South Okkalapa and West University. The Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise is conducting related upgrades to Rangoon’s electricity infrastructure.

Bui Duy Thanh, senior energy economist at ADB’s Southeast Asia department, said in the statement that “the aging and overloaded transmission network requires urgent improvements to provide stable and ample supplies of power to support the country’s economic growth targets and poverty reduction objectives. [Rangoon] plays a central role as an economic hub for the country and this assistance will help the government ensure reliable power supplies are provided to the city and surrounding areas.”

Chief engineer of YESC Yan Lin said ADB’s loan will be its first for electricity transmission in Rangoon and that it will focus largely on repairing the city’s outdated transmission lines and constructing overhead conductor covers in densely populated areas.

“Overhead conductor covers can prevent electricity loss from falling trees, as well as protect residents from fallen lines and potentially fatal shocks,” Yan Lin said.

Construction is expected to begin once necessary equipment arrives in Rangoon in early January. For the most crowded townships, the target completion date is before next summer, when electricity consumption typically increases.

Rangoon currently consumes about 1,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity per day, which is more than half of the country total of 2,000 MW per day, and these amounts increase each year. To keep up with the mounting demand for power, ADB recommends that the government develop new generation sources and expand and strengthen its current transmission and distribution networks.

A 2014 census revealed that only 32.4 percent of respondents use electricity as their primary source of energy for lighting, while nearly 70 percent said that their main source of energy for cooking comes from firewood, with electricity trailing at 16.4 percent.

In addition to ADB’s loan, $3.3 million will be contributed to the project by the government to cover administration costs, environmental and social safeguard measures, and the construction of access roads and staff housing in substation areas.

ADB expects to complete the multi-million dollar project in June 2019.