By DVB 13 November 2013
The Burmese government has pledged to build more power plants in order to meet public demand, following days of protests against a rise in electricity prices, state media reported on Wednesday.
Myanmar Minister of Electric Power Khin Maung Soe explained that the country faces an acute power shortage, with consumption increasing by 15 percent annually.
He blamed the shortfall on the government’s failure to build seven new hydropower projects, three thermal and two coal-fired plants.
According to the New Light of Myanmar, three new 500 megawatt power stations – costing US$2.1 billion – would need to be constructed to meet electricity demands by 2015.
“Local and foreign companies are invited to make investments in the projects as the government alone cannot afford to implement it,” said the report.
The announcement follows days of protests against a planned price hike on electricity rates starting November 2013. But the government backed down on Tuesday, saying that the price hike would be postponed until the fiscal year 2014-2015.
“We will charge new electricity rates in the 2014-2015 fiscal year,” Khin Maung Soe reportedly told parliament.
The new prices would have seen electricity bills for most Burmese families rise by around 40 percent each month. The proposal provoked an angry backlash from locals who took the streets in Rangoon last week in protest.
“If we don’t do this, the nation will face difficulties until 2020,” Khin Maung Soe told parliament, according to RFA. “We have electricity now because the previous government built power plants using international loans.”
Burma has an overall electricity generation capacity of only 4,000 megawatts, compared with 30,000 megawatts in neighbouring Thailand, which has a similar sized population.
Only 30 percent of Burma’s population is estimated to have access to the national power grid – less than 7 percent among those living in rural areas.