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Only high-tech firms for hydro, coal power

Only companies and countries with access to the latest technologies and technologies which minimise environmental impact will be considered to take part in hydro and coal power projects in Myanmar, a senior official from the Ministry of Electricity and Energy told The Myanmar Times.

“For electricity generation sources, we are planning to consider only the companies and countries with the most advanced technologies and technologies with the least environmental impacts, for hydro and coal power,” said the senior official who requested not to be named since he is not authorised to speak about the issue.

“We should only choose the best technology for the country when the projects affect the environment and have social implications. We shouldn’t go for cheaper alternatives which have poorer standards,” he said.

The source said the ministry will balance the use of hydro, coal and natural gas power plants in order to minimise adverse environmental effects and, at the same, get the best price for power generation in order not to burden the public.

Concerning coal, Japanese technology is better than China’s; however, technologies in the UK, the US, Germany and Norway are better than Japan’s, the official said.

Under the previous government, coal power projects in several areas – 600MW plant in Kengtung, 500MW and 1800MW in Tanintharyi, 540MW in Ngayokekaung and more – were proposed but actual power production did not meet the expectations.

All the proposals, except the Thanlyin-Kyauktan project, do not have a national grid system and a special transmission line needs to be built. As this is costly, the government has incurred annual losses. Furthermore, the government will not implement projects which will have potentially severe social impacts, that official added.

“When submitting the proposal, some said they would do their best and they were the best. But cheap and easily bargained things will not be good for social and environmental conditions of Myanmar,” the source said.

“A certain, reasonable price has to be given. For sustainability, environmental and socio-economic benefits and long-term maintenance, we would like to choose only high-tech nations and high-tech firms,” he noted.

In many projects under the previous government, favour was given to the countries which enjoyed close relations with Myanmar.

Upcoming coal power projects will be implemented by minimising impacts, in line with rules and regulations set by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Implementation can go ahead only after submitting a request to Hluttaw and having the request approved, another director from the Ministry of Electricity and Energy said.

Low-cost energy sources in the world are mainly hydropower and coal power. Renewable energy such as solar and wind power depends on the climate and weather. Thus, they cannot be generate 24 hours of power consistently and are not reliable.

“Rich countries such as the US, Japan and the UK have used coal before.

“In the age of globalisation, they are saying that coal should not be used because they have found other sources. But Myanmar is a poor country and our economic conditions compel us to use coal power.

“We should use coals only with minimal environmental impacts,” he further explained.

“Politicians, businessmen and the public should not ignore it when thinking about nation’s development.

“Words alone cannot produce electricity. When considering big hydro power projects, it is said there are environmental impacts. Gas is sold to foreign countries. If gas is value-added, it can make more money,” the official said.

“The country is not yet developed. If people are incited to demonstrate without understanding the situations, the country will never be economically developed,” he added.

The relevant ministry is talking about coal power generation and it plans to use coal power for up to 30 percent of the country’s energy by 2030.

National League for Democracy Central Executive Committee member U Win Htein also said that the government has been urged to construct coal power plants without being afraid of protests and those protesters would be satisfied if they have access to electricity.

During the NLD’s central committee meeting last month, he also said that coal power is more effective than other sources in Tanintharyi, Mon and Karen.

Thirty-three local civil society organisations with the support from 114 civic organisations across the nation have recently released a statement protesting against a 1200MW TTCL coal power plant project in Kayin State.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed between the state government and the company which will implement Japanese clean-coal technology, was made public a few months ago.

“There is no transparency regarding how the MoU was signed – not a word about the negative impacts.

“The firm sent a public message that they guaranteed 100pc for not having any impacts. It is impossible. I suppose they are lying,” Kayin State Committee member of Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA) U Saw Mi Pway Do said.

Proposals submitted to the ministry include one project in Dawei by a Thai company, and other projects in Mon State, Kayin State and Ayeyarwady Region.

Projects concerning 30MW or below can be implemented with the approval and under the supervision of regional and state governments. For those concerning more than 30MW, the Ministry will have to supervise. Right now, there are no projects involving more than 30MW and the policy is still under review, a director from the ministry said.

Translation by Zaw Nyunt

Source: Myanmar Times

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