Power Shift: Emerging Prospects for Easing Electricity Poverty in Myanmar With Distributed Low-Carbon Generation

David Fullbrook


Myanmar is among the least electrified countries in the world. Prospects are examined to assess the opportunity for a paradigm shift to deliver rapid relief from electricity poverty and change the trajectory of national development. Expansion of electricity supply is currently planned around the model of large power plants and a national grid. Experience elsewhere suggests it will take several decades for this model to supply electricity to most of the population and come at considerable cost to environmental quality, particularly rivers. However, there are signs that a distributed generation model could be widely developed over several years. Already, local markets are supplying domestic electricity generation systems. In 2012 development partners identified opportunities for interventions to reduce electricity poverty. Several successful commercial models for supplying affordable electricity to poor people in neighbouring countries could be adapted to Myanmar. Furthermore, market and technological trends in distributed power generation are coherent with national policy goals of securing energy independence and increasing use of renewable sources. Given the scale of unmet demand and clean energy resources, particularly solar and biomass, an opportunity is open for alleviating electricity poverty in years, rather than decades. If a hybrid centralized-distributed power system emerges over the next few years Myanmar may be better placed to resist and adapt to climate change and global shifts in energy markets.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5539/jsd.v6n5p65

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