Coal power continues over local objections

The Ministry of Electric Power plans to move forward with several coal-fired power plant projects despite the opposition of some civil society groups.

The ministry has signed memorandums of understanding for at least 11 coal-fired projects in the country since 2010, though so far they are still at the early stage of feasibility studies, with no shovels yet in the ground.

Some local residents and civil society groups have opposed the plans over possible environmental and social impacts.

Early last year, a senior ministry official told The Myanmar Times that the recently agreed-on projects will not be implemented without agreement from the public.

However, the Ministry of Electric Power also faces an urgent need to improve electricity generation, with demand growing by at least an estimated 13 percent a year. Hydro power is expensive and hard to implement, as is natural gas, while renewables such as solar and wind are still at the early stages of making a contribution. Therefore, coal presents a tempting option to increase base load generation.

A ministry announcement in 2014 said it would like to increase the amount of electricity generated by coal power plants. It signed its first memorandum of agreement for a coal plant to be located in Kengtung in eastern Shan State in March. The company will be allowed to move to the next step in the project with the agreement, and will now have the project site and area approved after the feasibility study is completed.

A Thai-based company called Lumpoondum is to implement the 660-megawatt coal-fired plant, though it has generated significant local opposition.

Since the agreement, others have signed memorandum of agreement to build coal-fired power projects.
Thailand-based Toyo-Thai Corporation Public Company signed an agreement with the Department of Hydro Power Planning, under the Ministry of Electric Power, to build a coal-fired project in Mon State.

The firm aims to construct a 1280-megawatt coal-fired plant using what it calls “Ultra Supercritical” advanced Japanese technology, in Ann Din village of Ye township in Mon State.

The US$2.8 billion project would take four to six years to be built, with a 30-year concession under a build-operate-transfer system. Ultimately, the project is to be transferred to the ministry.

Some local residents have vocally opposed the Ann Din coal-fired power project. Thousands of locals joined a May 5 rally against the project, demonstrating with signs reading “No Coal” and “No Toyo-Thai”.
Government officials say they will continue moving forward with coal plants.

“We will sign memorandums of agreement for other projects,” said U Aye San, director general of the Department of Hydro Power Planning. “But it will take time to get the feasibility studies finished. The companies need to do this to get to the next steps of project implementation, such as investment procedures and financing.”

U Aye San added that coal is only one option, with the idea being to use of a mix of generation, including hydro, gas, coal, solar and wind, to provide reliable electricity output.

The government has a target of 100pc electrification rates by 2030, and has been coordinating closer with international organisations such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, as well as national institutions from Japan and China, to achieve its targets for electrification rates.

Source: Myanmar Times

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