September 3, 2008

Burma Expects Better Power Supplies After Hydro Plant Completion

Text of report in English by Burmese newspaper The Myanmar Times website on 1 September

BETTER electricity supply should be just around the corner said U Win Kyi, director general of the Ministry of Electric Power's (1) hydropower implementation department.

He said the increased supply would come from the Shweli River hydroelectric power plant that began feeding electricity into the national grid in early August and should be complete by the year's end.

Located 17 miles (about 27 kilometres) southwest of Mantet village in Namkham district, northern Shan State, the 600-megawatt plant is 90 per cent finished, U Win Kyi said.

"One of the six hydraulic generators started producing electricity in the first week of August," he said, adding that the other five generators would come on line one after the other.

He said the plant will be inaugurated by the end of the year. The plant is being built under a joint venture with a consortium of Chinese companies and Myanmar's Department of Hydroelectric Power under the Ministry of Electric Power (1).

The Chinese consortium, which named itself Yunnan United Power Development Company Limited, includes Yunnan Huaneng Lancang River Hydropower Company, Yunnan Power Grid Company and Yunnan Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Company Limited (YMEC).

"The second generator started operating in the last week of August; the third one will commence in October; the fourth in December; the fifth in February next year and the last one should start in April," a Yunnan United Power Development Company representative in Yangon said last week.

The Shweli plant is likely to be followed by two other hydropower projects on the river, which are slated to produce 500MW and 400MW respectively when they are finished. Both are located in Shan State's Momeik district.

A 288km-long powerline links the Shweli plant to the towns of Shweli, Namkham and Muse to Mandalay, where it will be wired into the national grid by the Ministry of Electric Power No (2).

Construction of the plant started in 2003 by the Myanmar government but the Chinese side did not sign the joint venture until December 31, 2006.

According to the agreement, Myanmar will get 15pc of the electricity generated by the plant for free and the rest will be sold to China. However, what price the electricity will be sold for remains unclear.

"Detailed cost plans have been under negotiation but no decisions have yet been made," she said.

Other construction undertakings for the project have included an approach road, the Shweli Bridge, a huge concrete embankment, a diversion tunnel, a pilot channel and a power intake building and an approach tunnel at the river's first hydroelectric plant.

According to the contract, the Chinese side supplied the hydraulic steel structure and electromechanical equipment including turbine generators and transformers.

YMEC's involvement in the project dates back to 2003 and the company later signed an additional memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Electric Power (1) for the project. The company has held a branch office in Yangon since 1990, where it has arranged the import of equipment for hydropower stations, railway engines, railway tracks and container wharves.

YMEC was also involved with the Hupin, Keng Tung, and Kunhein hydropower projects with the Ministry of Electric Power (1) in 1990 and took part in over 20 hydropower projects nationwide, including the Paunglung station, which was inaugurated on March 25, 2005.

The Paunglung hydropower station, with the total capacity of 280MW, is currently the largest in the country.

According to official statistics, Myanmar's hydroelectric power generation capacity in 2007 was 1750MW. It supplies about 45 per cent of all electricity generated, with gas turbines contributing another 35pc, coal-fired steam turbines 15pc and diesel engines the final 5pc.

Originally published by The Myanmar Times website, Rangoon, in English 1 Sep 08.

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