Residents say electricity rates should be lowered in off-grid areas

Residents in gas-producing regions like Tanintharyi are questioning why they still have to pay higher rates instead of being covered by the national grid. The government hiked electricity tariffs last week, and the new rates took effect on July 1.

While consumers of residential and religious buildings will be charged the previous rate of K35 per unit for up to 30 units, they will be charged higher rates as their consumption rises. Non-residential consumers, including businesses, embassies, factories and government buildings, will also pay rates that increase based on usage.

However, the government-mandated rates relate to areas covered by the national grid. Meanwhile, some 55 percent of Myanmar remains outside the grid and consumers in these areas, both households and businesses, have to resort to buying electricity from private firms at higher rates. According to Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) data from 2018, only 16pc of households in Rakhine State and Tanintharyi Region, both gas-producing regions, have access to electricity from the grid, for example.

U Than Oo, an activist who hails from Tanintharyi, said even though electricity tariffs even in areas not covered by the national grid has gradually become lower, it remains high when compared to grid-covered regions like Yangon. He said the national grid should be extended to other off-grid areas as well so consumers don’t have to pay the higher rates.

Ko Myo Aung, a Dawei, Tanintharyi resident, said rates for electricity varies from district to district and can reach as high as K800 per unit. Dawei itself has a tariff of K250 per unit, from K490 back in 2009. Myeik pays K390 while Kawthoung, the southernmost point in Myanmar pays K440. Residents of Hopan, in the north of Shan State, said they pay K220 per unit while those in Homalin and Hkamti townships in Sagaing Region to the northwest pay K400 to K500 per unit.

U Than Win, another Tanintharyi Region resident, said the extra revenue from the government’s raising of the electricity tariff rates, if used for development purposes seems fair but said the government should review the tariff rates that residents in off-grid regions have to pay.

According to data from the Ministry of Planning and Finance, the government supplied electricity to the public at a loss of K630 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year, up from K507 billion in the 2017-18 fiscal year. MOEE data showed that for the 2019-20 fiscal year, a loss of more than K500 billion has been estimated.

The World Bank said in a June report that electricity consumption in Myanmar will grow at an average annual rate of 11pc until 2030. – Translated

Source: Myanmar Times

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