The Irrawaddy

Electricity Ministry Appeals to Public to Support Hydropower and Coal

Electricity ministry press conference in Naypyidaw. (Photo: Pe Thet Htet Khin / The Irrawaddy)

NAYPYIDAW — The Ministry of Electricity and Energy will appeal to the public to support hydropower and coal-fired power plants, said permanent secretary of the ministry U Htein Lwin.

One year into the new administration, the ministry finds it difficult to generate sufficient power because of people’s strong opposition to hydropower and coal-fired power plants, the minister said.

“People oppose hydropower and coal power generation, saying that there are negative environmental impacts. But we have limited natural gas resources and it is difficult for us to generate more power,” he told the media at the ministry’s annual press conference.

The ministry will establish hydropower and coal-fired power plants but will ensure minimal environmental impact, U Htein Lwin said, adding that the plans will be publicized in order to try to convince the public.

Currently, the ministry, with the financial assistance of the French government, is implementing the Laymyo hydropower plant—with a capacity of 690 megawatts—in Arakan State, as well as the Shweli hydropower plant—with a capacity of 1,050 megawatts—in northern Shan State.

The secretary said power generation from hydropower, natural gas and coal costs less than renewable energy from solar or wind power.

“We can’t just sit by because people object. We will generate power from these sources and supply the people,” said the secretary.

However, it is up to Union-level commissions to decide whether to implement mega projects like the China-backed Myitsone Dam, which has faced strong opposition from the public.

China, Thailand, and Australia have proposed plans to generate electricity in Burma, according to the ministry.

At present, only 34 percent of the country has access to the electricity grid. The remaining 66 percent, mostly rural areas, still does not have access.

Ministry officials restated a goal to provide universal access to electricity by 2030 at the press conference.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.