No job at Yoma Micro Power is too small. When our Community Engagement team travels to the most remote places to identify new sites for rural electrification and talk to the communities, we come back with insightful discoveries about the complexity of Myanmar’s electricity sector.
As a country, the Myanmar government is following the National Electrification Plan (NEP) to extend the national grid to currently unelectrified areas. We’ve seen the results of this commendable effort in putting up new poles for 11kV lines and building foundations for the substations to deliver electricity to the end users. However, the communities in many of the remote villages we’ve visited in the past couple of months are essentially left in dark about when exactly they would get electricity and at what cost.
Many villages are already considered electrified by the national grid even though only a fraction of households is connected. As the remaining households cannot afford to pay the cost of connecting (upwards of 350 USD) they remain off-grid. There are villages that are currently collecting money for poles & cables to prepare for grid arrival in 2021/2022, despite the fact that their distance from the nearest grid is greater than 20 km. Rather than wait, some communities take matters into their own hands and even with little information they would proactively seek solutions for the lack of electricity access in their villages. A number of villages have installed a temporary distribution network and diesel generator financed through grants from the World Bank-backed Community-Driven Development Project, offering a couple of hours of power to the households for TV and lights. They hope to use this infrastructure – built with grid standards in mind – once the national grid arrives.
Other villages received solar home systems as donations before the last elections, many of which have stopped working by now. Household users with solar home systems provided by foreign companies through various government tenders are left unserved when seeking components that need to be replaced but are nowhere to be found at local markets. Customers in those villages are aiming for the next level of electricity access, beyond just lights and phone charging. About a hundred or so villages now have decentralised solar mini-grids, the future of which is uncertain if the national grid arrives because these solutions are classified in the NEP as ‘pre-electrification’ despite offering stable 24/7 grid-like supply. And finally, there are villages that are too far to get to and too poor to ever connect to the national grid as the further the village is from the existing grid the more the community needs to collect for the household connections.
Myanmar’s electrification plan shouldn’t just deliver electricity to a village but aim to recognise & unify the efforts of all actors – public and private sector – across the development field, so that the consumers wouldn’t be the ones who pick the shortest straw in this electricity access game. Despite of all the challenges – not to mention bad roads turned into rivers amid the rainy season – our Community Engagement team loves the work. And we are even more determined to provide affordable electricity access for everyone in our communities and go beyond connections to meet the energy needs through mini-grids powered by solar energy.
– Adriana Karpinska, Community Engagement Manager, Yoma Micro Power