The renewable energy advisory firm will reportedly help develop one of Myanmar’s first large-scale solar PV projects, after partnering with an unnamed investor.
According to a statement released, MEM will share development risk with the client, and has already aided in location scouting for the project, which it says will be online by Q4 2019.
No further details were disclosed, regarding costs, location or how the generated electricity will be sold, and the company could not be reached for comment.
Myanmar’s large-scale problems
To date, Myanmar has not completed any large-scale solar installations, with the country’s current operational systems being solely located in the off-grid sector.
Indeed, off-grid solar is the number one driver of electrification in Myanmar. Solar Home Systems (SHS) are said to have reached 2,700 villages in 95 townships, benefiting nearly 700,000 people residing in 140,000 households. A further 186 schools and 524 health centers have access to electricity, and eight pilot hybrid solar mini-grids were delivered in 2017. Looking ahead, 100,000 SHS are currently under procurement, and should be installed across 1,400 villages this year.
However, according to a Ministry of Electricity and Energy Presentation held last May, there is a planned utility-scale PV project pipeline totaling 1.5 GW across five projects.
Work is said to be underway on the first 50 MW phase of a US$275 million, 220 MW project. It is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2019, after which it will start feeding electricity into the grid, based on a 30-year PPA Thai renewable developer, Green Earth Power (GEP) signed with the Ministry of Electricity and Energy.
Two Thai contractors, Vintage EPC Co. Ltd and Vinter, are acting as the EPC supplier, and construction service contractor, respectively, for the first phase of the project, which is located in Minbu, in Myanmar’s Magway region. They were awarded the contracts by GEP, in May 2016.
Some progress is also said to have been made on another 300 MW large-scale plant, however, it is reportedly facing challenges. The Ministry of Electricity and Energy said a memorandum of association and a PPA have already been signed. According to the Myanmar Times in 2016, Yangon-based Won Toll signed a US$1 billion agreement that May for the project, to be located in the Ayeyarwady Region, with Kamrai Panit from Thailand.
While Bui Duy Thanh, Principal Energy Economist at the Asian Development Bank, said Myanmar represents a 26.962 GW solar energy opportunity, particularly due to its high solar irradiation levels, sources say there is an overall reluctance by the government to invest in large-scale projects, while security of investment is said to be putting many investors off, especially as the government has demanded all future PPAs be signed in MMK – not USD. Technical challenges, like extreme weather and grid connection, are also rife.
The policy environment is expected to improve over the next two years, however. At the Myanmar Green Energy Summit, held last August, U Aung Myint, general secretary of the Renewable Energy Association Myanmar (REAM) said the government is reviewing the country’s National Electrification Project, to improve and align it with the current situation.