14 Dec 2020

Pioneering infrastructure in Myanmar – the last frontier for wind power, by Kenneth Goh

Kenneth Goh, Programme Manager at InfraCo Asia, shares the process behind developing the first utility-scale wind power projects in Myanmar – one of Southeast Asia’s last frontiers for the renewable technology.”

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, and as government budgets focus on public health responses and stimulus packages, private sector investments in infrastructure have a bigger role to play in helping countries to Build Back Better and get back on a path towards sustainable and inclusive growth.

Narrowing the infrastructure gap between developed and emerging markets has only become more challenging. And there is even more so a need to prioritise sustainable infrastructure in view of current financing constraints, in order to help governments respond to the longer-term crisis for which there is no two-year runway or a vaccine – climate change.

In 2015, the Myanmar Ministry of Energy and Electricity, in partnership with the Asian Development Bank, put forward the Myanmar Energy Master Plan in which the preferred energy scenario shows an energy generation mix of 57% hydropower, 30% coal, 8% natural gas and 5% solar and wind by 2030.

In 2016, InfraCo Asia, through its contracted developer team ICM and with the support of PIDG Technical Assistance, began developing a portfolio of wind power projects with an estimated capacity of 263MW in Myanmar’s Magway region, to demonstrate the viability of wind power investments in Myanmar. To date, while there remains a strong case for the complementarity of wind power for Myanmar’s energy mix, and a need for more power generation capacity, the process of developing and implementing the renewable technology is not without its obstacles.

Despite the challenges, it is in the nature of the PIDG and InfraCo model to take on pioneering infrastructure in such challenging territories, with the aim of creating a demonstration effect so that other private sector players become willing and able to develop similar projects. Take, for example, InfraCo Asia’s 168MWp solar power project which reached operations ahead-of-schedule in Vietnam’s Ninh Thuan province in June 2019. The joint venture partnership with Singapore-based Sunseap International (Sunseap) delivered one of the first utility-scale solar farms in Vietnam, 100% funded by foreign debt and equity. At a time when there was limited confidence in the creditworthiness of the project’s off-taker, InfraCo Asia and Sunseap’s successful raising of debt from a regional bank signalled that private sector confidence could be won over under the right conditions, with the right team and the right partners.

Our aim is to achieve similar pathfinding success with Magway Wind Power. While the wind power development process in Myanmar is less structured than neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, the ground-up campaigns led by InfraCo Asia and ICM, have enabled significant progress on project milestones – such as the collection of robust wind data, completion of environmental and social impact assessments, and the forging of strong relationships with key stakeholders including the regulatory authorities of the central government, the Magway Region Government (the project is based in the Magway Region), and local communities.

In the past year alone, a number of these engagements took the form of key capacity-building initiatives. With the support of PIDG Technical Assistance, the InfraCo Asia and ICM teams carried out two workshops covering the techno-commercial feasibility of wind power developments in Myanmar, as well as a study tour of the Newcom Group’s Salkhit wind power project – a pioneer project for Mongolia’s wind power sector.

Beyond working with government bodies, the process of developing wind power in Myanmar has also required strategic communications on the ground, in order to improve buy-in for the wind power projects amongst local communities. This means creating open channels for consultation and communication, establishing accessible grievance redressal mechanisms, and directly addressing the concerns of the local community.

Through the community surveys, for example, the team frequently encountered questions such as ‘Will the wind farm change the weather?’, ‘Are the turbines dangerous?’ and ‘How will the project affect my crops?”. Working closely with ICM, we sought to address such concerns and more through bespoke communications that are accessible for Myanmar’s local communities, the latest of which is an animated video campaign, illustrating the benefits of wind power for Myanmar.

The teams’ decision to create an animation drew inspiration from InfraCo Asia’s Myanmar Rural Electrification Services project, where cartoons were shown to improve the uptake of informational leaflets, including a grievance redressal mechanism developed by ICM.

Throughout the development process, InfraCo Asia has also benefitted from the invaluable support and advice provided by the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK government, enabling greater collaboration and enhancement of the UK’s transference of experiences and investment into Myanmar. Building on these partnerships and our network of supporters, InfraCo Asia and ICM continue to strive towards breaking ground on the pioneering Magway Wind Power project –a utility-scale development in the region’s last frontier for wind power – Myanmar.

 

Kenneth Goh is Programme Manager at InfraCo Asia. He oversees InfraCo Asia’s contracted developer teams, covering a portfolio of 20 projects covering South and Southeast Asia. ICM is InfraCo Asia’s contracted developer team for Myanmar, where InfraCo Asia’s programme is funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), a member of the Private Infrastructure Development Group.

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