Under an agreement recently announced by US Trade Representative Michael Froman, a US-based investment group will partner with the Burmese government in developing the first-ever solar energy project in Myanmar’s Mandalay region. Set to become operational by 2016, the project will boost Myanmar’s power supply by upwards of 12%, and create 400 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs. This will take some of the pressure off of Myanmar’s hydropower industry, which supplies roughly 76% of Myanmar’s electricity and has recently been battling drought conditions. Located just 15 miles from one of the two new 150-megawatt plants is the Myotha Industrial Zone, which will benefit from this nearby source of power. US companies will also profit, as 20% of the projects’ value will come from US exports.
This is not Myanmar’s first foray into solar energy development. In a similar vein, US company Cummins Power Generation, in partnership with Irrawaddy Green Towers, has secured a contract on September 4th to provide solar hybrid, battery hybrid, and diesel generator solutions to over 750 cell towers that IGT will build throughout Myanmar over the next year. Cummins is already a large supplier to Ooredoo, IGT’s main competition in providing nationwide mobile service in Myanmar.
Myanmar also has an agreement with the Asian Development Bank which supplies off-grid solar power to 25 Burmese villages. Under the agreement, 400,000 households and services will benefit from solar power by 2022.
Countries across the ASEAN region are turning to solar and other renewable sources of energy as they pursue infrastructure developments and improvements. The US Asia-Pacific Comprehensive Energy Partnership is one initiative that is helping provide American expertise to regional governments looking for green energy projects. Energy cooperation was also a theme of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s trip to Myanmar and other ASEAN countries earlier this year.
Sarah Batiuk is a Program Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington, DC.