Why all the electricity blackouts?

Why are electricity blackouts occurring so often in these days in Yangon?

Many people are asking this question, particularly as some in the city lost power again for as much as six hours on the night of May 8.

Government officials have pledged a 24-hour electricity supply to Myanmar’s main commercial city, but a glance through social media last week reveals any number of complaints. People are angry about the city’s unstable electricity supply.

New generation projects are constantly being announced, in recent years often supported by the state budget and international funding. Yet still Yangon is unable to meet its demand, particularly during the height of summer. The blackouts just keep coming.

Yangon City Electricity Supply Board (YESB) chief engineer U Yan Linn said there is enough production to cover all of Yangon.

“The main problem behind constant blackouts is our aging power distribution system,” he said.

“The aging electricity lines are full to capacity. It’s challenging keeping stable transmission and distribution, and the lines are not in good condition.”

Yangon’s current electricity consumption stands at 1000 megawatts, from about 700 megawatts last year.

U Tin Zaw Htway is just one Botataung Township resident who is fed up with the situation.

“The other day, my electricity went out the whole night,” he said. “It happens so often these days.”

The Ministry of Electric Power (MOEP) is working to rehabilitate the distribution network with the help of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). A survey of the system began in July 2013.

JICA Myanmar official Kuronuma Kenji said overall power generation and demand is increasing, but the distribution network and capacity of power stations are not up to date.

MOEP plans to spend some US$214 million – borrowed from JICA – to improve the network by reducing electricity losses due to transmission and distribution to 5 percent. MOEP is also in discussion with Thailand’s National Institute of Development Administration for a similar project.

Although some of these projects are years from completion, often people want a quick fix.

YESB’s U Yan Linn said he is under lots of government pressure to improve supply.

“High-ranking government officials want us to fulfill the public’s need as soon as possible,” he said. “But some types of work cannot be completed in a short time.”

The transformers are presently capable of handling about 50pc of Yangon’s electricity needs, but they are often pressed to handle 80-90pc of possible generation.

The Ministry of Electric Power (MOEP) has also moved to address generation concerns. Last year it signed power purchasing agreement (PPA) with four private companies to generate electricity for Yangon. The four natural gas-fired power plants started production last year, with a feed-in tariff of US3.4 cents a kilowatt hour without fuel costs.

The electricity price increased 40pc starting April 1 after parliamentary approval for the change last year, with a progressive tariff charging higher rates with more use.

A number of international organisations are also involved in rehabilitating Yangon’s electricity network, including the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank Group.

It might be little comfort to Yangon’s citizens trying to make it through a hot night with a power outage, but the electricity is being generated – it’s getting it to the people that is the problem.

Source: Myanmar Times

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