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Blog | Myanmar: seeking hydropower’s optimum role
Cameron Ironside's picture

Myanmar: seeking hydropower’s optimum role

Occupying the greatest land mass in south-east Asia, Myanmar is among the world’s biggest untapped territories for hydropower, with only 2.6 GW of its more than 100 GW potential having been developed. On 19–20 January 2015, the World Bank Group and the International Hydropower Association host a workshop to explore how the country’s potential can be realised in a sustainable manner.

Myanmar mapMyanmar represents a potentially important player regionally, with significant hydro resources and a growing interest in exploring how they might be developed. With this is an appetite to engage with international developers around this potential.  

The country significantly shares borders with China and India, themselves hubs for further regional integration, as well as Bangladesh, Lao DPR and Thailand.  Only 31 per cent of its population currently has access to electricity, and it faces the added challenge of a population that is geographically broadly spread and rural.  

While the country faces the all-too-familiar burden of having to deliver energy urgently to both meet demand from a growing urban population and electrify a population with lack of appropriate infrastructure and financial challenges, there is also a clear understanding of the need to consider and utilise different energy options. 

Consequently, structures are being put in place both to develop larger, grid -based projects (in particular around Yangon and surrounds) and rural off-grid renewable systems.  Legal and institutional frameworks are also being put in place to attract international engagement.

Myanmar’s installed capacity stands at approximately 3,300 MW, three quarters of which is hydropower, at around 2,600 MW from 19 operating projects.  The country aims to provide electricity access to 50 per cent of the population by 2015, and faces demand growth of 15 per cent per annum, largely from key centres around Yangon.

And Myanmar is blessed with significant hydropower potential.  While there is more than 100 GW of recognised theoretical potential (a 1995 World Bank study identified 266 projects with a combined capacity of 108 GW), 46 GW of feasible potential has been identified for possible development, and a number of the 43 additional dams  are either currently under construction or in planning.

Hydro faces a number of challenges in this environment, however, from perceptions of unreliability during dry seasons, to challenges from other energy sources that, while more expensive, are potentially able to deliver solutions more rapidly than hydro is.

IHA has been actively involved in the developing discussions around the role of hydropower in the energy mix, having for the past two years been invited to speak on the matter at the Myanmar Green Energy Conference, as well as engaging with the various actors in Myanmar over the period.

The workshop presents a real opportunity to engage with stakeholders at a critical time in the country’s development"

Together with the World Bank Group, the association is organising a workshop on Sustainable Hydropower and Regional Cooperation in Myanmar on 19–20 January 2015.  

This event will build on the successful regional workshops previously run by the World Bank Group and IHA, targeting government and regulators with the aim of exploring the challenges and opportunities around developing this potential.

The workshop aims to foster knowledge and encourage exchanges between stakeholders in the energy and water sectors to develop more concrete good international industry practice for hydropower development in Myanmar. 

It builds on a series of previous events organised by IHA and IFC collaboratively and separately, and addresses the important contribution that hydropower makes to regional cooperation and development.

The workshop is hosted in this context, and in the context of a rapidly changing political environment that has seen the country move from authoritarian military regime to the first truly democratic elections anticipated for later this year.  

The workshop presents a real opportunity to engage with stakeholders at a critical time in the country’s development, and hear first-hand the expectations and ambitions of the government.   

If you are interested in attending the workshop please get in touch, or alternatively you can find more information and register here