RESIDENTS PROTEST KAWTHAUNG COAL-FIRED POWER PLANT
Kun Chan, Mizzima, 05/03/12. Edited.
http://www.mizzima.com/business/6697-residents-protest-kawthaung-coal-fired-power-plant.html Residents living near a coal-fired thermal power plant under construction near Kawthaung at the southeastern tip of Burma are concerned over health issues associated with the power plant, which could begin operations in April. The power plant, just north of Kawthaung, is located 50 feet from residential areas and its chimney is about 40-foot high, residents said.
A reservoir that provides drinking water to Kawthaung is about 450 yards from the plant and local people fear the water will be polluted by the plant’s emissions. “Our ward is very close to this plant. We’re concerned over our health because coal emissions are hazardous to health,” said Aye Yeik Nyein, a local resident.
The Than Phyo Thu mining company started work on the thermal power plant in mid-2011 after getting permission from the Tanintharyi Region government. The project is about 95 per cent completed, said local residents. Operation of the power plant is expected to start in early April.
The coal will be supplied from a coal mine in Bokpyin township farther to the north. Water needed to operate the power plant will be pumped from the Pachan River, near the Thailand-Burma border.
Sources said power plant manager, Hla Maw, invited local residents to discuss the project last week at his office. The discussion ended after Than Tun, the Democratic Party (Myanmar) Tanintharyi Region party organizer, outlined local concerns about the project.
Than Tun told Mizzima, “He talked only about the advantages of the project, and didn’t say anything about the disadvantages. I pointed out the disadvantages and asked him how they planned to protect us from the bad consequences, how to safeguard and conserve the environment, and how to provide medical help for us. He didn’t answer any of those questions and stopped the discussion.”
Last week, a town meeting was held at the State High School No. 3 in Kawthaung, attended by about 100 people. Democratic Party (Myanmar) officials also met with the manager of the power plant in 2010 to voice their concerns while the plant was under construction.
Than Tun said residents would distribute leaflets to educate local people on the dangers of a coal-fired power plant. “We will continue our efforts to try to stop this project,” he said.
A coal-fired thermal power plant can emit carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide which can cause acid rain, emit tiny particles which can cause respiratory tract cancer and many gases and elements such as carbon monoxide, mercury and arsenic which can pollute drinking water and sea, say environmentalists.
Additional references Data summary Kawthoung See above: ‘Villagers petition against dam construction on Anyaphya creek’ (IRROL: 15/03/12)
See below: ‘Government cuts coal-fired power plant from Dawei project’ (MT: 16/01/12)
‘4000-megawatt power plant planned for Dawei deep-sea port’ (NLM: 03/11/10)
‘Special projects committee briefed on electric power plans’ (NLM: 07/03/10
‘Thai company pursuing big hydropower project in Taninthayi’ (MT: 21/05/07)
ENERGY WORKSHOP PROMOTES SMALL-SCALE ELECTRICITY GENERATION
Small-scale methods of electricity generation should be pursued in the short term to increase Myanmar’s electrification rate, experts said at a recent energy workshop in Bangkok. Just 23pc of the country’s population, mostly in urban areas, has access to electricity, according to Mekong Energy and Ecology Network (MEENet), because of decades of underinvestment in electricity infrastructure.
Myanmar has in recent years added a significant amount of extra electricity generation capacity but many villages remain off the national grid. The topography of the country has also proved a major hindrance to expansion of transmission lines. “Myanmar is the largest of the GMS countries but electrification rates have been lower because of the limitations of the national grid and transmission lines, which can’t cover the whole country,” U Aung Myint, general secretary of the Renewable Energy Association in Myanmar, said at the Mekong Energy Workshop in Bangkok on January 19. “That’s why some NGOs like us are providing assistance to rural areas to have self-manageable electricity supplies. We can produce electricity in rural areas using other sources such as mini hydro plants and biomass.”
He said these alternative sources were more environmentally friendly than diesel generators, which until now have been the government’s preferred method of power generation in remote areas. “Local NGOs are trying to help villagers use environmental friendly dry-cell batteries and small solar power plants in some villages. We want to let the government know there are methods of supplying power to areas not covered by the national grid that are cheap and not bad for the environment.”
Large-scale energy generation has become a hot topic in Myanmar over the past 12 months, with grassroots activists, celebrities and the media campaigning successfully against the Myitsone Dam in Kachin state and a coal-fired power plant in Dawei. While there were environmental and dislocation concerns, in both cases a central issue was the fact that much of the electricity generated was to be exported. The cancellation of the projects is also likely to cast some doubt over the future of other large foreign-backed electricity developments.
But in addition to megadams and natural gas plants, MEENet director Mr Witoon Pernpongsacharoen said Myanmar was blessed with a plethora of potential small-scale energy sources as well. “You can install mini- hydropower projects with low cost everywhere [for] community development that local people can do by themselves,” he said, adding that other possible methods include solar and biomass. “In my view, the government should give more priority to this.”
Assistance could potentially come from the Asian Development Bank, which has provided technology and systems management to other countries in the region, such as Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. But Mr Jung Inn Kim, an energy expert at the bank’s Southeast Asia department, said this would depend “on the political situation in Myanmar”. Like most international financial institutions, the ADB is effectively barred from working in Myanmar because of sanctions.
Additional references See below: ‘Renewable energy projects and business opportunities (Myanmar)’ (MES: mid-2010?)
‘Renewable energy forum held in Yangon’ (Myanmar Times: 04/01/10)
'Call for energy co-operation' (Myanmar Times: 13/02/06)
‘Village electrification technology on display’ (Myanmar Times: 14/11/05.
'Private sector promoting interest in renewable energy' (MT: 12/07/04)
‘Electricity potential of energy sources available in Myanmar’ (Energy Ministry: 2001)
ELECTRICITY INSPECTION GROUP TO BE EXPANDED
http://mmtimes.com/2012/business/611/biz61104.html The electricity inspection group of the EPM-2 will be boosted in the 2012-13 financial year to facilitate the ministry’s push to expand the national grid, the minister said recently. U Khin Maung Soe told a press conference in Yangon on January 9 the inspection group would be boosted 10-fold from 100 to more than 1000 employees, who will work nationwide.
He added that the group was formed more than 20 years ago was not sufficient to handle the work it needed to undertake in coming years. “The group will help with inspection tasks and offer advice to people countrywide on the safe use of electricity. The group is not intended to go out and fine people but they will enter people’s houses and advise on the safety of electrical works,” he said.
The group will be organised by the Ministry of Industry and will not charge for any advice, he added. “Inspections will be performed in both old and new residences. For example, we’re fully aware that some contractors try to save money when installing electrical wiring by using smaller gauge wiring,” U Khin Maung Soe said. “In those cases almost nobody knows about it, not even the owner of the house,” he added.
U Khin Maung Soe said the ministry is also changing old cables in Yangon city in an effort to prevent power blackouts caused by wires disintegrating. “Some of the cables are about 40 years old and cause a number of difficulties, so we’re working to improve the electrical grid by replacing those old cables.”
Addition references See below: ‘The Electricity Law of 1984‘ (Appendix 30)
See also the website of the Directorate of Industrial Supervision and Inspection:
Rakhine State will receive a share of the energy produced from gas platforms off its coast, the Minster for Electric Power-2 said during press conference in Yangon on January 9. U Khin Maung Soe said the ministry of energy was in agreement on the project that would see some of the gas produced by the Shwe field fed into gas-fuelled electricity turbines and then back into the national grid.
The minister said the national grid would be expanded in coming years to include the southern part of Rakhine State. “We already have three gas turbines at Minbu in Magwe Region that are not being used,” U Khin Maung Soe said. “But if we get those turbines running the electricity generated will be sent into the national grid as well,” he added.
He said that channelling electricity into the national grid would benefit the rest of the nation as well as Rakhine State. “It is like the Yeywa [hydroelectric plant] that has a maximum capacity of 790 megawatts [MW]. Mandalay only consumes about 100MW and the rest is sent to Yangon. We just need to connect the Minbu gas turbines with the national grid,” he said. He said that the reserve gas turbines in Minbu have been inoperative for more than 20 years and had been left unused because of hydropower projects in other parts of the country.
U Khin Maung Soe said the government planned to connect Rakhine State to the national grid in order to share the electricity. In the 2012-13 fiscal year, a 230 kilovolt (KV) high voltage line will be built from Shwe Taung in Bago Region to Taunggup in Rakhine State. Also, the 70-mile (112-km) Taunggup-Maei-Ann line will be replaced with a 230KV cable. He added that a 42-mile-long (67km) 230KV line would be built to link Maei during the 2012-13 fiscal year. Main switches will be installed at Maei, Ann, Taunggup and Kyaukpyu, he added.
“We plan to send electricity to the national grid through Taunggup, Maei, Ann and Kyaukpyu by 2014 at the latest. “By the end of 2014, we will also provide 24-hour electricity to the towns south of Ann. The plan was called for by the country’s leaders, who want it to start as soon as possible,” U Khin Maung Soe said. He promised that the ministry would implement the works in the 2012-13 financial year but further expansions would be subject to budget availability.
Starting from mid-August 2011 some towns in Rakhine State moved to a new system of power generation, where management of the local networks was handed over to private companies. Previously, those networks had been managed by village electricity generation groups, which relied on localised grids. In Kyaukpyu every household that owns a meter box is obliged to use 18 units of electricity, with the first 10 units (1 kilowatt hour) costing K25 and the other eight – and subsequent – units charged at K500 each.
Kyaukpyu resident U Khin Aye Maung said the payment system adopted in August was cheaper than one that had earlier been proposed. “The first plan was to charge K25 for the first five units and then K500 for every unit above that. There was no minimum quota of units we had to buy,” he said. However, different payment systems are used throughout the state. He said he was glad that Kyaukpyu would be incorporated into the national grid.
The minister said the system started in August was a stop-gap measure to provide more electricity until the national grid could be expanded. “However, we will be able to send electricity through the national grid to the southern part of Rakhine by the end of 2014,” he said, adding that he wanted the Rakhine people to know that the new government is working for them.
U Kyi Win, a resident of Yanbyae in southern Rakhine State, said the government could not afford to bypass Rakhine State with the gas produced from its offshore platforms. “The issue has been raised in the hluttaws so I think this is an important issue and that Rakhine residents will receive some of the electricity generated from the offshore gas. “People here know that they have the right to ask for this and the ministries can’t just stand still on this issue,” he said. Many houses in Rakhine State have television and satellite receivers but rarely use them owing to the high price of electricity, he added.
U Kyi Win said the extension of the national grid to Rakhine State was a key facet of the state’s overall development. “It’s also an issue of environmental conservation because if people don’t have electricity to cook with, they will cut down the trees for fuel. Even wealthy people from Rakhine State hardly ever use electric hotplates or refrigerators,” he said. He added that if reliable and affordable electricity was supplied to the state it would be easier to attract investors.
The Shwe gas project is off the Rakhine coast in blocks A-1 and A-3. Up to 80 percent – or about 400 million cubic feet of gas per day (mmcfd) – of the gas produced by the field will be exported via pipeline to China, while the remaining 100mmcfd will be diverted for domestic electricity production. Production is due to begin in May 2013. “If the majority of the gas is exported and the rest is diverted for use by major companies such as Asia World, Htoo Trading or Max Myanmar, and not shared for the development of this region, will the local people be satisfied?” asked Dr Aye Maung, chairman of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party.
“The country should look after the rights of all its people,” he said. He said any of the natural resources extracted from any region should be shared. “If we see that the gas is exported to China but we still have to pay K500 or K600 a unit for our electricity, the democratic government will not survive in the long term,” he said. He said the plan to extend the national grid to Rakhine State needed to be put to the hluttaws and Rakhine residents would have to await the outcome.
Additional references See below: ‘Local suppliers using new rate structure for electricity charges’ (Myanmar Times:12/09/11)
‘Arakan reps raise electricity supply questions in parliament’ (NLM: 15/03/11)
'Thahtay creek dam and other hydropower projects in Arakan' (NLM: 20/04/06)
‘References to the Mann gas power plant’
NLM, 30/09/11. Edited and condensed. http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs12/NLM2011-09-30.pdf
At the session of the Amyotha Hluttaw (Nationalities Chamber) of the Parliament on 29/09/11, Dr Aye Maung of Rakhine constituency-1 asked whether natural gas produced on the offshore Shwe gas field would be used [to produce electricity for] Rakhine State and whether there was a plan to supply electricity through national grid to the townships in Rakhine State. EPM-1 Zaw Min said that natural gas would be produced at the offshore Shwe gas field by an international consoritium that was developing the field. Myanmar and China had reached an agreement for the natural gas produced on the Shwe field to be supplied to China over a thirty-year period commencing in May 2013. He said the government would have difficulty coordinating with the Chinese government for the use of some of the gas from the Shwe project in plants that would generate electric power for the Rakhine, since the investment required for construction of the pipeline to China was huge and Myanmar had made a commitment to supply the gas at a fixed date and would have to compensate China if it failed to do so on time. So, it would not be possible to use the natural gas from the Shwe field for something that was not in the agreement [between the countries]. With regard to grid connections, the minister said that the government was working on a 230-KV power line that would connect Oakshitpin [in central Myanmar] with the Thahtay Creek hydropower project and that further links to the An, Laymyo and Saiding hydropower projects were in the process of planning. Main power stations would be constructed at Oatshitpin, Taungup, Mai, An, Sane Khonmin Junction (Kyaukpyu), and Mann with the benefit of a loan from India. Altogether, he said 110 miles of 230-KV power lines, 223 miles of 66-KV power lines, 72 miles of 33-KV power lines and 13 power stations would be constructed to supply electricity to the entire Rakhine State.
At the session of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Peoples’ Chamber) of the Parliament on 27/09/11, U Ba Shein of Kyaukpyu constituency said he had learned that natural gas from the Shwe gas field would be processed at a plant being built near Malakyun village, 6 miles southwest of Kyaukpyu. He asked whether there was a plan to generate electricity for Kyaukpyu using some of this gas, and whether electricity would be supplied to Kyaukpyu through the national power grid. Energy Miniister Than Htay replied that natural gas refined at the station near Malakyun would be sent to China by pipeline and that under contract arrangements it could not be used for other purposes. Although the initial capital costs of gas power plants are cheaper than those of hydropower plants, the costs of producing electricity from natural gas are greater than from hydropower. He said that EPM-1 had plans to produce enough electricity [for Rakhine State] from hydropower projects under development at Thahtaychaung, An, Laymyo and Saidin. Moreover, EPM-2 had plans to set up a 230-KV power grid and main power stations [in the Rakhine]. On completion, the hydropower projects in Rakhine State would not only supply electricity to the Rakhine, but also to the national power grid. While it was not possible to supply electricity to Kyaukpyu through the use of of natural gas from the Shwe project, in the future, arrangements could be made to build a power plant that would use natural gas from the fields offshore of the Rakhine.
At the session of the Amyotha Hluttaw (Nationalities Chamber) of the Union Parliament on 19/09/11, U Kyaw Kyaw of Rakhine State constituency-2 asked whether the ministry had plans to extend the national grid network to Rakhine State, given the developments relating to exploration for off-shore oil and gas and at Kyaukpyu. In his reply EPM-2 Khin Maung Soe said that a consortium led by Daewoo International had carried out the off-shore oil and natural gas exploration in Rakhine State and that companies from the Republic of Korea, Singapore, China and India had been carrying out off-shore oil and natural gas exploration and inland exploration near Sittway. If these companies found natural gas, there would be opportunities to produce electricity in Rakhine State. Presently, hydropower projects including Thahtaychaung, An, Laymyo and Saidin were being implemented in the state, and these projects would be able to generate sufficient power both for Rakhine State and for export to the national grid. There were plans to construct a network of 230-KV transmission lines and main sub-power stations. These included power supply from the Thahtaychaung hydropower station to Taungup, Mai, Kyaukpyu and An, and from Laymyo and Saidin hydropower stations to Kyauktaw, Sittway, MraukU, Minbya, Pauktaw, Myaypon, Kansauk, Ponnagyun, Buthidaung and Maungdaw and to transport the power surplus to the national grid. Plans to construct a natural gas-fired power station would be laid down only when the conditions required it.
http://www.mmtimes.com/2012/news/610/news61006.html Environmental activists appear to have notched another victory over foreign investors, after the government announced last week that a planned 4000-megawatt coal power plant in Dawei would not go ahead. EPM-2 Khin Maung Soe told journalist on January 9 at the Yangon Electricity Supply Board headquarters in Ahlone township that the ministries of energy, industry and electric power 1 and 2 had “already decided” not to allow the plant to go ahead. The minister said the cancellation was due to “fear of the adverse effects on the environment”. “We saw journals publishing articles on the adverse effects of the coal-fired power plant. We read them and decided that we should not do it,” he said.
However, he said the ministries were still discussing whether to allow a 400MW coal plant at the special economic zone in Tanintharyi Region. “We are sure we will not work on the 4000MW plant. However, we need a 400MW to support the [project] and we are discussing whether to go ahead with it or not. We are asking the ministry that handles environmental work to do some calculations and consider it,” he said.
Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding was to build the 4000MW plant under an MoU it signed with Italian-Thai Development, the developer of the special economic zone, in November 2011. However, the power plant came up against stiff opposition from some Dawei residents, who in December organised a press conference in Yangon to voice their concerns to local media.
Ko Myo Aung, a social worker and Dawei resident, said he hoped the government did not allow any coal-fired power plants to be built. He said the power plant would mostly be for the benefit of foreign-owned industry. “It is not that we don’t want to see development of our region but building a coal-fired power plant in our region is like someone making a fire and cooking rice in front of our house and serving the cooked rice to another village. The rice being cooked near us will not be served to us,” he said.
News of the cancellation surprised the project's investors, who only two days earlier had travelled to Myanmar to meet government officials. Ratchaburi president Noppol Milinthanggoon said his company had not received official notification from the government of the cancellation. The Bangkok Post reported that investors were confident the power plant would still be built, possibly using a cleaner fuel.
A spokesperson from the Yangon Electricity Supply Board confirmed the Dawei project could instead be powered by natural gas or connected to the national electricity grid. The cancellation has also raised concerns about the investment climate at a time when the government is trying to attract more foreign investment. It also comes after the government suspended work on the unpopular Myitsone Dam in Kachin State, angering the project’s Chinese backers.
Meanwhile, EPM-2 Khin Maung Soe ruled out coal being used to power the Thilawa special economic zone in Yangon Region. “We will have a 500 MW gas turbine instead ... we will be able to get enough gas by about 2015,” said U Khin Maung Soe. “We will not build power plants that have a bad effect on the environment. The head of the government also asked us to build hydropower and gas-powered plants instead,” he said.