Monday, September 25, 2017

Yangon govt targets ‘failing’ power firms

Regional officials say they will investigate performance at private electricity providers and if necessary, cancel contracts signed by the former government, as frequent power outages continue across Yangon and frustrations are vented through social media.

A long exposure photograph shows a power outage in parts of Yangon. Photo - EPAA long exposure photograph shows a power outage in parts of Yangon. Photo - EPA

Four private companies signed with the previous administration to supply power to the city. They are not performing as expected, said Daw Nilar Kyaw, regional minister for electricity, industry and transportation, to parliament yesterday.

“There are a lot of weaknesses and areas where companies have failed to meet the terms of the agreements. We will compare the contracts with company performance and will submit our findings to the Union ministry.”

Contracts signed by the previous government are coming under intense scrutiny as the new administration begins to pursue election promises to improve transparency and efficiency, and fight corruption.

On the issue of power, the government is under pressure to act, as social media users anxious for a response to frequent blackouts make it clear that their expectations have not been met.

Yangon Electricity Supply Corporation recently promised that residents will see their electricity restored to full strength after intermittently cutting voltage across the city to save power.

YESC is a recent experiment in privatization, aimed at reducing running costs and the national budget deficit. Until 2015 it was the Yangon Electricity Supply Board, which generated around 1000 megawatts of electricity in Yangon Region.

Now it is an independent, publicly owned company, tasked with attracting the investment needed to reduce wastage and improve customer service.

Contracts now up for review include those of UPP Power Myanmar which runs the Ywarma power plant, Thailand’s Toyo-Thai which operates the Ahlone power plant, Myanmar Central Power Company which runs the Hlawga power plant, and Maxpower, a subsidiary of Indonesian firm Navigat, which runs the Thaketa power plant.

The capacity of Toyo-Thai’s two turbines – made by US giant General Electric (GE) – combines to nearly three times the capacity of their three ageing neighbours, and produce 121.6MW of electricity. Maxpower also uses a GE engine to generate 53.58MW.

Local company UPP Power Myanmar runs a Caterpillar engine to generate 52MW while Myanmar Central Power Company runs a Guascor engine to generate 54.25MW.

Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein said earlier this month that the 61 engines and turbines under state and private companies in Yangon city produce just over 400MW of their 990MW total capacity.

Myanmar remains one of the least-powered countries in Southeast Asia. 

Just over 30 percent of the population has access to electricity, leaving 6.8 million households across the country in need of electricity, according to official figures.