Chinese firm to restart Myanmar’s only coal plant

China’s Wuxi Huagaung Electric Power Engineering is upgrading the entire Tigyit plant in southern Shan State near to the famous Inle Lake, which has been out of use for several years.

Local authorities held a public meeting in a village near to the site on April 24 to explain the company’s environmental and social impact assessment activities, ahead of the power plant’s reopening, the Electric Power Generation Enterprise (EPGE) announced on April 25.

A tender to operate the coal-fired power plant under build-operate-transfer terms was issued by the previous government and Wuxi Huagaung was selected as the winner, the announcement said. The investment agreement for the plant’s long-term operation was signed on October 22 last year.

Wuxi Huagaung is now reinstalling major parts such as boilers and turbines, an official from EPGE told The Myanmar Times.

“The updating process is now under way. It was supposed to start again in early May, but has been delayed a little – perhaps until later in the month,” said U Win Myint, an EPGE director.

Tigyit is the country’s first coal-fired power plant, built by Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise in 2001. Operations first started in 2005, led by the China National Heavy Machinery Corporation with local companies Eden Group and Shan Yoma Nagar.

Two villages were forced to relocate for the project, more than 500 acres of farmland were confiscated, and explosions from the mine destroyed local pagodas, according to a 2011 report by the the Pa-Oh Youth Organization called “Poison Clouds: Lessons from Burma’s largest coal project at Tigyit”.

The extensive report notes that air and water pollution from the mine threatened the agriculture and health of nearly 12,000 people living within a 5-mile radius of the project and that 50 percent of the local population suffered from skin rashes.

A newly installed boiler is designed to meet the World Bank’s environmental standards with low emission of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, the EPGE announcement said, and the environmental impact of restarting the power plant will be monitored.

The plant has two coal-fired turbines with a capacity of 60 megawatts each.

It was designed to generate 900 kilowatts per hour annually, but in reality generated much less than its installed capacity – about 25 to 30MW according to EPGE’s announcement.

“One of the boilers has been completely changed with a new one due to its heating value and poor coal burning design. The power plant will be fuelled with coal from Chin State as before. But the turbines were updated for higher capacity,” said the official.

Electricity from the plant will power Kalaw, Pinlaung and Taunggyi in southern Shan State, it said.

The former government signed at least 11 contracts for coal-fired power plants around the country with a number of international and regional companies. None of these projects have yet moved forward due to wide opposition by the public, local residents and environmental groups.

Coal power is a focus of the National Energy Master Plan drafted by the previous government. The government set a target of 100 percent electrification by 2030, with an energy mix of 33 percent biomass, 22pc oil, 20pc coal, 13pc gas, 11pc hydropower and 1pc renewable energy.

“The environmental impact assessment for resuming the Tigyit plant was very thorough. The new government has been elected, so people do not need to worry about the resumption of coal power,” the official said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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