Rangoon Starts Power Cuts for Industries

By Nang Seng Nom 3 January 2013

RANGOON—Authorities in Burma’s commercial capital Rangoon have begun cutting power supply to the city’s industrial zones for seven hours per day, a zone manager said. The outages are set to worsen and affect residents during the coming dry season, when Rangoon’s chronic electricity shortages become particularly pressing.

Myat Thin Aung, chairman of Hlaing Thar Yar Industrial Zone, said on Wednesday that his zone had been informed that daily power cuts would commence on Jan 1.

Yangon Electricity Supply Board (YESB) publicly announced the outages this week, he said, adding that the industries were warned that “electricity will be cut for seven hours from 4 pm to 11 pm.”

YESB Chairman Aung Khaing had announced “that power cuts to industries were being implemented in order to be able to provide power to the public in the dry season,” according to Myat Thin Aung.

Rangoon business would suffer under the cuts, the zone manager said, but he added that as factories were given due notice they could prepare their diesel generators ahead of the outages. Cold-storage industries, bakery businesses and plastics factories would be most affected by the planned outages, he said

Up until now power supply in Rangoon had been good, according to Myat Thin Aung. “We have been provided with 24 hours of electricity this rainy season. It is better than before. In the past, you would never know whether the power would be supplied or cut,” he said.

The manager warned nonetheless, that providing continuous power would be instrumental in attracting foreign business investment in Burma’s industrial zones.

With the dry season nearing, the concerns over power outages are now also growing among Rangoon’s citizens.

A Kyauk Myaung Township resident, who preferred not to be named, said, “I hope the 24-hour power distribution will continue as in recent months.” But in the dry season, we used to be provided with limited power supply in the past,” she added. “We cannot do anything if the power is cut in Rangoon.”

Last month, YESB warned that shortages were again likely during the coming hot season, when water levels in hydropower stations drop due to droughts and power output of the stations fall sharply.

During the last hot season, in the months of April, May and June, frequent power shortages led to large-scale protests in Rangoon and Mandalay.

About 70 percent of Burma’s current energy supply comes from hydropower and 30 percent comes from coal, but production is far below the needs of the country.

Only a quarter of all Burmese have access to mains grid power and Rangoon alone needs an estimated US $237 million for infrastructure refurbishment and expansion work for the 2013-2016 period, according to the Asian Development Bank.