Myanmar Power Plants Delayed by COVID-19 to Start Operating in Coming Months

YANGON—Two of five emergency power projects originally scheduled for completion by the summer but delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic will start operating this month and the rest should be up and running by September, the deputy electricity minister told the Parliament on Tuesday.

Deputy Minister for Electricity and Energy (MOEE) U Khin Maung Win said three imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) power projects and a gas power project are still not operational because of COVID-19. Due to travel restrictions and commercial flight bans, the power generation equipment, and the machinery and experts required to install it, were unable to reach Myanmar by the original deadlines.

Myanmar called for five emergency projects last year after the country faced severe blackouts during the hot season. Among the five projects, the three largest are LNG projects: a 350-megawatt (MW) plant in Thanlyin in Yangon, a 400-MW plant in Thaketa in Yangon and a 150-MW plant in Kyaukphyu in Rakhine State. They were due to commence operations in the first week of April.

All three projects were awarded to Hong Kong-listed Vpower and its joint venture, China National Technical Import and Export Cooperation (CNTIC), in September last year. The total power generation of the three LNG projects is 900 MW, at a cost of over US$800 million (1.11 trillion kyats).

U Khin Maung Win said the LNG project in Thaketa is expected to launch full operations on May 30. The project in Thanlyin will start operating in June and the project in Kyaukphyu will be complete in September.

The minister said the Kyaukphyu project was delayed due to the shutdown of a factory producing LNG tank containers in Wuhan, the Chinese city hit hardest by the pandemic. Moreover, an expert from Belgium hired to oversee some of the projects only arrived in Yangon last week and is still waiting for his COVID-19 test results.

U Khin Maung Win said that despite the travel restrictions, the ministry has been trying to get the projects off the ground. A group of engineers will arrive in Myanmar on May 22 to oversee some of the overdue projects.

The minister said a 151.54-MW gas power plant project in Alone Township in Yangon was also delayed due to COVID-19, but will be complete in July. The project was awarded to a consortium of China Energy Engineering Group-Hunan Electric Power Design Institute Co. Ltd (CEEC-PHEDI), China ITS (Holding) Co. Ltd, and Shenzhen Shennan Power Gas Turbine Engineering Technique Co. Ltd.

A 20.54 MW gas power plant at Kyun Chaung in Magwe Region is finished and expected to being operating on Tuesday.

Myanmar has the lowest access to electricity in ASEAN; only half of the country’s 54.5 million population is connected to the national gird.

Since late April, the country has faced regular power blackouts due to water shortages at hydropower plants following periods of extreme heat across the country. According to MOEE data, electricity production has declined significantly over the past few weeks. On Sunday, MOEE data showed that power stations across the country produced around 2,600 MW.

MOEE said the decline in electricity production won’t have a severe effect on consumers as many factories are shutting down and economic activity has declined due to COVID-19. The blackouts were caused by technical faults and also by maintenance activities to upgrade some power stations, it said. However, the ministry did not provide specific data.

According to MOEE data, electricity consumption has increased by 15-19 percent annually over the past few years. The World Bank warned Myanmar last year that it needs to invest up to US$2 billion annually in its electricity sector to sustain economic growth, as electricity consumption is expected to increase by 11 percent yearly until 2030.

The bank forecasts Myanmar’s electricity demand will reach 8,600 MW in 2025 and 12,600 MW in 2030.

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Source : The Irrawaddy

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