Sun Not Shining on Myanmar Junta’s Solar Power Projects
By The Irrawaddy 3 November 2021
Just six companies, including Chinese firms and local companies with connections to the military regime, have made bids for the 12 solar power projects Myanmar’s junta put up for tender in May, although some 40 firms including Thai companies have expressed interest in the projects.
The projects are planned to be built in Mandalay, Bago, Magwe and Sagaing Regions and Shan State, with each one expected to generate between 20 to 40 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Five of the projects are in Mandalay, three in Magwe, two in Sagaing and one each in Bago and Shan. Only two of the three projects in Magwe received bids.
Among the companies that have made bids are the Singapore-based MCM Pacific Pte. Ltd, owned by arms dealer U Aung Hlaing Oo, and Gold Energy, a subsidiary of the Asia World Group of Companies owned by crony U Tun Myint Naing, also known as Steven Law.
IGE Power Ltd, which is owned by U Nay Aung, a brother of the Myanmar Navy chief Admiral Moe Aung, has also bid for the projects. Chinese companies that made bids include the joint venture of HK New Energy Investment Holdings Limited and Sepco Electric Power Construction Corporation China, and China ITS, according to documents seen by The Irrawaddy.
U Aung Hlaing Oo’s MCM Pacific Pte. Ltd and the Chinese joint venture have submitted bids for ten projects.
The majority of domestic energy firms are not interested in bidding for the projects as the price of raw materials for solar power production is soaring in the global market. At the same time, domestic electricity demand is unlikely to increase significantly as Myanmar is barely receiving new foreign investment amid the post-coup turmoil, a director of a local energy company told The Irrawaddy.
“Even the Chinese companies that won tenders in previous projects are planning to withdraw from Myanmar. Those projects still can’t start. I doubt if the bidders for current projects can make profits,” he said.
Previous solar power projects in Myanmar attracted dozens of Chinese companies, but only two Chinese companies made bids this time, a sign perhaps of limited access to loans for projects in Myanmar, the director suggested.
Since the February 1 coup, the junta has encouraged the development of solar power as hydropower is the main source of electricity in Myanmar and the power supply declines during the hot season when water levels fall in rivers.
Hong Kong-listed VPower has suspended operations of two power plants in Yangon since July as they have become financially unsustainable.
In September, VPower announced that it had pulled out of two power projects, each with a capacity of 200MW, in Rakhine State’s Kyaukphyu and Mandalay Region’s Myingyan.
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