Myanmar needs to develop its vast energy resources to promote growth and reduce high poverty incidence, the Asian Development Bank said.
The Manila-based lender released Tuesday its initial assessment of Myanmar's energy sector. The report showed that the country has abundant energy resources which can be tapped for power generation and oil and gas exploration. The most notable of these resources are hydropower and natural gas.
The hydropower potential of the country's rivers is estimated to be more than 100,000 megawatts. The country also has a proven gas reserves amounting to 11.8 trillion cubic feet and is supplying natural gas to Thailand.
Despite having these resources, Myanmar's current per capita electricity consumption is among the lowest in Asia. Biomass accounts for nearly 70 percent of its domestic energy source. Electrification rates range from 67 percent in Yangon to as little as 16 percent in rural areas.
The ADB said energy resources were not harnessed owing to several problems that plagued Myanmar for decades. These include limited capital; lack of qualified personnel; poor legal and regulatory frameworks; and a lack of coordination and planning among seven energy-related ministries.
"Myanmar's energy sector has suffered from decades of under- investment, and only one in four people currently have electricity access," Anthony Jude, Director of the Energy Division in ADB's Southeast Asia Department, said in a statement.
With Myanmar opening up, Jude said it's possible to use domestic energy resources to power the country's development. But this can only be possible through enforcing environmental and social safeguards.
The ADB said international investment in Myanmar's energy sector could focus on medium- and long-term planning; rehabilitation works in power generation, transmission, and distribution; and the construction of gas power plants in Yangon; the construction of a 500kV transmission line from the north to Yangon; an integrated, comprehensive plan for hydropower development; and the rehabilitation and upgrading of coal and gas- fired generation plants, refineries, and natural gas pipelines.