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Decentralized renewable energy key topic at Myanmar Power & Electricity Summit

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Sunlabob this week spoke about the viability of renewable energy-based rural electrification at the Myanmar Power & Electricity Summit held in Yangon.

Represented by Evan Scandling, Head of Communications, Sunlabob conveyed the message that decentralized renewable energy –particularly solar photovoltaic power and small hydropower mini-grids – holds significant potential in Myanmar, a country currently with more than 40 million people not connected to the national electricity grid.

“Off-grid renewable energy is impossible to ignore as Myanmar develops its roadmap for electrification,” said Scandling. “The country has the right natural resources, a huge customer base that is demanding reliable energy supply and a long time horizon for extending the centralized national grid. Mini-grids will play a significant role in answering the electrification needs of Myanmar.”

Approximately 70 percent of the country is not yet connected to the national grid. Outdated electricity laws and nonexistent regulatory frameworks are hindering foreign investment and meaningful progress in the electricity sector.

Sunlabob discussed two main targets for initially implementing off-grid renewable energy.

“More than 45,000 villages in Myanmar are currently not connected to the national grid and many of those are forced to pay extremely high electricity rates to local private operators using diesel generators,” pointed out Scandling. “Solar and small hydropower offer a solution that is immediately more reliable, and over time, provide a more financially sound investment than fossil fuel-based generation.”

Scandling also highlighted the opportunities offered by supplying energy to off-grid telecommunication towers: “With upwards of 5,000-10,000 base transceiver stations (BTS) to be built off-the-grid in Myanmar in the coming years, the role for decentralized renewable energy is quite promising.”

The presentation also underscored the key technical, financial and operational lessons learned by Sunlabob through its rural energy projects in neighboring Laos and other developing areas of the world.

Sunlabob stressed that the public and private sector need to equally bear the burden of enabling energy access across the country of nearly 65 million people.

“With the right mix of policies from the Government of Myanmar and an encouraging business environment for public-private partnerships, renewable energy can make a real impact in the efforts to reach those 40 million people off of the grid.”

Sunlabob’s outlook on electrification in Myanmar, including best practices and policy recommendations, were included in the World Economic Forum’s “New Energy Architecture: Myanmar” report, the first ever comprehensive analysis of the Myanmar’s energy sector designed to facilitate effective energy reforms. Sunlabob’s contribution to the report, “Looking to Laos as a model for off-grid renewable energy”, can be viewed on page 36 here.