Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gov’t: public should be consulted on coal power

The government is currently streamlining its policy for the power sector to ensure the country’s energy security and coal can be one of the options, according to Daw Mi Mi Khaing, director general of Department of Electric Power Planning under the Ministry of Electricity and Energy.

Myanmar-EU Economic Forum held in Nay Pyi Taw on June 8. Su phyo win/ The Myanmar TimesMyanmar-EU Economic Forum held in Nay Pyi Taw on June 8. Su phyo win/ The Myanmar Times

Apart from energy security, the government is also taking into account the environmental and social impacts of energy projects as well as the pricing of power generation so the people and the industry can have affordable power, she said.

The official added that the administration recognised coal-powered plants as one of the options to address the energy gap, but the population have to be consulted about whether coal should be used.

“From the technical point of view, coal is one of the options for closing the power gap.

“If we only consider natural gas ... we cannot be sure about the future price of natural gas. In contrast, coal price can be lower than the natural gas.

“Power generation cost can be reduced. Hence, we can offer consumers affordable price,” she said.

But Yasuko Yoshida, country chair of Shell Myanmar Energy, noted that while coal could lower the price of electricity in the country, there are other issues which need to be addressed beyond pricing.

She appeared cautious at the suggestion.

“We need to think about the environmental and social impacts of coal, as some countries have decided to reduce reliance on coal for power generation,” she explained.

Xavier Preel, general manager of Total E&P Myanmar, said that the decision to include coal as part of the power generation should not be taken lightly.

“As a gas company, we are committed to the global warming issue. Thus, we consider that the decision of [using] coal cannot be only based on the tariff.

“It has to take into account the large CO2 emission that coal is making. We know that the president has announced at the beginning of the week that Myanmar is about to issue a global warming policy for the country in terms of how to address those to issues,” he said.

The decision to utilise coal or not has to be based on consideration of many factors: energy efficiency and cheap energy on one side and tackling carbon dioxide emissions on the other, Mr Preel added.

“We need to remember that Myanmar is one of the affected countries most by global warming. Thus, the government will make the decision based on all these different options.

“We are not saying that coal is bad, because many countries are using coal. At the same time, we have to balance all issues and consider all options,” he said.

On the same platform, the director general of Department of Electric Power Planning had urged European investors to focus on the energy and power sector and support Myanmar’s energy development. She also added that the country has huge potential for the hydropower sector but hydropower can only be a long-term solution, given the time needed for those projects to be constructed and become operational.