By Sun Guangyong
“According to the license issued by the power supply authority, the electricity supply is 220V, load current 16 amperes and maximum power 3,000 watts,” reported Kyaw Zaw Win, manager of Eternal Hotel in Kyaukse, a township about 40 kilometers south of Mandalay in northern Myanmar. The hotel has been open since last year and has maintained an occupancy rate of 80 percent. “Our hotel can operate dozens of air conditioners at the same time without any problem. I haven’t seen any power outages since Kyaukse Power Plant opened.”
Severe power shortages have long plagued the economic development of Myanmar.
Power for 2.7 Million People
The gas-fired Kyaukse Power Plant was sponsored by Myanmar’s National Infrastructure Holding Co., Ltd. (NIHC) and Myanmar Chemical and Machinery Co., Ltd. (MCM), and contracted to SEPCOIII Electric Power Construction Co., Ltd. (SEPCOIII), a subsidiary of Power Construction Corporation of China (POWERCHINA), under an EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction) contract. The project kicked off in July 2018 and was handed over to the owner in April 2019. As the largest internal combustion engine power plant in the country, the 145MW Kyaukse Power Plant is equipped with an installed capacity of 1.274 billion kilowatt-hours of clean electricity per year, providing reliable power to the 2.7 million residents in Mandalay Region.
“The power will be transmitted not only to Mandalay Region, but also to the national grid, so people across the country will benefit,” commented Myanmar State Counsellor
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the commissioning ceremony of the power plant on May 17. “I am pleased to see that the contractor has overcome difficulties and kept construction on schedule.” Myanmar is currently wrestling with a gap of 50 percent in its power supply. The commercial operation of Kyaukse to feed the national grid will benefit many in Myanmar.
Near Kyaukse township is KAMAX, Myanmar’s first motorcycle assembly plant, which was relocated from Yangon in 2017. Dozens of Myanmar workers are busy on the assembly line at any given time. Assembled motorcycles are parked neatly in the workshop, waiting for transport to retailers and distributors across the country. “We can assemble 200 motorcycles a day,” revealed workshop manager Mo Tun. “In the past, when power supply was interrupted, we had to stop the assembly line, because diesel generators would dramatically increase costs. The power plant built by the Chinese company has ensured stable power supply.”
According to U Win Khaing, Union Minister of Electricity and Energy, Myanmar’s maximum power production was 3,078 megawatts on May 5, 2019. Yangon Region consumed 41 percent of the country’s electricity, Mandalay Region 16 percent, Nay Pyi Taw 5 percent, and other regions 39 percent. At the peak of electricity consumption, Kyaukse Power Plant has provided continuous and reliable power supply to Mandalay Region as its main power supplier, which has effectively met the urgent needs of the local population.
However, one facility is still far from enough for the demands of the entire region. Pacific Hotel opposite Mandalay Railway Station caters to the streams of tourists in shopping street and jade market. But power blackouts have limited its business operations. Power supply in Mandalay can be interrupted in hotels, restaurants, factories and schools every day. Many shops are equipped with diesel generators, but the noise and high cost make them unpopular with customers and shop owners alike. “We would love more gasfired power plants like Kyaukse,” said a local resident. “We could have plenty of power even in the dry season.”
Another ‘China Miracle’
Myanmar has suffered serious power shortages for many years. Only 38 percent of its population has access to electricity, one of the lowest figures globally. Most of its 10 million-plus households are still waiting for access to electricity. Improving the power supply and developing the power industry is a priority for the Myanmar government and the most urgent need for economic development and improved living standards.
Aung San Suu Kyi declared her government dedicated to electricity and brightness for the whole country, which means not only physical brightness for each household, but also ensuring future brightness for each household. Energy is certainly a priority of her government.
Kyaukse Power Plant was a fast-track power plant project offered by Myanmar’s State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) through an open bidding process to solve power shortages in Mandalay. Now, Myanmar has a total installed capacity of 5,389 megawatts, with hydropower stations generating 60.4 percent of the power, and natural gas power plants generating 35.6 percent. “Unbalanced energy source structure coupled with the significant drop in hydroelectric generation during the dry season makes gas-fired plants particularly advantageous,” commented Li Wei, deputy manager of the Kyaukse project.
Since POWERCHINA entered the Myanmar market in the 1990s, it has completed about 40 projects involving electricity, power grids and communication infrastructure with a total contract value of US$2.6 billion. It has participated in the survey and design of most hydroelectric stations in Myanmar and constructed many landmark projects such as Yeva Hydropower Station, Dapein (I) Hydropower Station, Thaketa Gas-Steam Combined Cycle Power Plant and Kyaukse Power Plant. The Thaketa plant has become the most efficient gas-fired power plant with the lowest energy consumption in Myanmar. POWERCHINA has also compiled the first planning report on Myanmar’s hydroelectric development for the next 20 years.
The eight Wartsila 18V 50SG internal combustion engines of Kyaukse Power Plant are modern gas-fired engines with advanced global technology to make them energy-saving and environmentally friendly. During construction of the project, SEPCOIII adopted firstclass standards to ensure top quality and deployed innovative management to foster new ideas, procedures and products, which promoted the physical quality of the project as well as the economic and social development of Myanmar.
“The first engine was delivered on December 30, 2018. It took the Chinese contractor
dozens of days and nights to install the engines and conduct the first successful ignition of the No. 1 engine on February 28, 2019,” reported Dan Tuang, the owner’s project manager, “They completed the project fast and with good quality, creating another ‘China Miracle’.” Dan worked in Singapore and Thailand for more than 20 years, which gave him considerable exposure to international projects. “In the international market, Chinese electric power companies have leading technology and strength across every step of the engineering process.”
“The on-time completion and opening of Kyaukse Power Plant testifies to the strength
and professional capability of Chinese electrical engineering enterprises,” commented Minister U Win Khaing, “It also marks the deepening of cooperation between Myanmar and China in electricity and clean energy.”
Well-being of the Myanmar People
Myanmar is rich in power resources and natural gas reserves. However, development of its power has lagged severely, with only 44 percent of its population having consistent access to electricity.
With economic opening-up and accelerated development in recent years, Myanmar’s demand for electricity has been growing at a rate of about 19 percent a year— additional demand of about 300 megawatts per year. Development of the industry is an imminent task and one of the key areas of the Myanmar government’s focus on reform and development.
To achieve its 2030 goal of universal access to electricity for the whole country, the Myanmar government is working on a variety of power development programs including hydroelectric, natural gas, wind and solar. China-Myanmar cooperation on power infrastructure is an important facet of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the backbone of the China- Myanmar Economic Corridor. As the largest source of foreign investment in Myanmar’s power industry, China is assisting Myanmar to the best of its ability in solving power shortages as soon as possible through comprehensive cooperation with Myanmar in fields of power source construction, transmission and distribution, technology transfer and training while ensuring that bilateral cooperation benefits the Myanmar people.
At the commissioning ceremony for a similar power plant in Mon State, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi thanked China for helping Myanmar boost its energy capabilities. She declared that gas-fired power plants have increased Myanmar’s power supply capabilities and improved the living standards of the Myanmar people.
Throughout Myanmar, great vitality from ongoing economic development is apparent. A World Bank report indicated that Myanmar is growing steadily in production and services, with economic growth expected to reach 6.5 percent in fiscal year 2018- 19. An Asian Development Bank report concluded that Myanmar’s economy will grow at an average annual rate of 7 to 8 percent over the next 20 years. However, constraints caused by outdated and lacking infrastructure are glaring. The country urgently needs to develop its energy industry and enhance ability to transmit electricity to urban and rural areas alike to ensure all people enjoy tangible benefits.