Power outages in major cities like Yangon and Mandalay are getting worse despite the advent of rainy season, causing difficulties in daily life, say residents.
Prolonged blackouts have expanded across the country since the military coup in 2021. In early 2022, the electricity supply was reduced to three or four hours per day, blighting life for people in Myanmar.
The state-owned Yangon Electrical Supply Corporation (YESC) said in April that production capacity at large hydropower plants had fallen in line with dry, summer conditions, resulting in widespread electricity shortages across the country.
However, blackouts are normally rare in the rainy season, when hydropower dams fill and electricity production increases. Forty percent of Myanmar’s electricity is generated by hydropower and there have been no restrictions on supply in the rainy season in past years. Yet since the coup, regular power outages have been reported even by residents in the commercial capital of Yangon.
The Department of Meteorology and Hydrology recorded plentiful rainfall in June, when the number of rainy days across the country ranged from 18 to 29. However, the military regime has continued to distribute only four hours of electricity per day on a rotating basis, while frequent blackouts in cities are disrupting life for people and businesses.
Yangon residents confirm they got only four hours of electricity per day last month.
“It’s very rare that we get electricity at all at night. We can’t even cook rice with electricity,” said a resident of Yangon’s Hlaing Thar Yar Township.
A housewife living in Insein Township said she now pays more money for cooking gas because of the prolonged power outages.
“The weather is hot when there is no rain and when there is a blackout at night, I don’t sleep well,” she told The Irrawaddy.
Even hospitals and universities are suffering the power outages, a resident of North Dagon Township told The Irrawaddy.
“Our township public hospital cut electricity each night for an hour in the last week of June,” he told The Irrawaddy.
Before the coup, under the civilian National League for Democracy Government, the country generated about 3,700 MW daily and Yangon consumed about half of that amount. The daily power generation declined from 3,711 MW in October 2021 to 2,665 MW in March 2022.
Junta boss Min Aung Hlaing has sought to blame the ousted NLD government for the fall in power production.
He claimed at a national business promotion meeting last Friday that the electricity shortage was due to the postponement or cancellation of power plant projects for various reasons under the NLD government.
He added that power distribution was also being disrupted by sabotage operations conducted by People’s Defense Forces.
However, Yangon residents blamed Min Aung Hlaing and his military regime for lacking ability to govern the country.
“If the power is cut this much during the rainy season, meter boxes may have to be removed altogether in the summer,” a resident of Yangon’s Tharkayta Township told The Irrawaddy.
The World Bank’s latest report on Myanmar highlights the electricity crisis, saying it had deepened hardship caused by high prices and shortages resulting from import restrictions. It added that many Myanmar businesses now face difficulties sourcing raw materials.
Myanmar has the lowest electrification rate in Southeast Asia with only 50 percent of households connected to the public grid, according to the World Bank.