Myanmar is embarking on a new phase of development, a phase in which the energy sector will be very important. Our natural abundance of oil, hydropower and natural gas means that we have a great opportunity to fulfil the energy demands of consumers in our country and around the world. It also means that we must ensure our energy sector is managed in a way that meets the combined aims of economic growth, energy access, energy security and sustainability. The government is committed to developing the institutions and long-term strategies that will secure these aims for the future of Myanmar.
One of the first and most important issues that the government is addressing is the institutional structure of the energy ministries in Myanmar. Up until recently, a number of different but related energy ministries assumed responsibility for energy production and management. Without an overarching body to guide the scope of their activities, their actions sometimes overlapped and took on an ad-hoc nature. We have now set up a National Energy Management Committee (NEMC) to help devise our long-term energy strategies and unify the efforts of these diverse ministries. This is the first step towards streamlining our management of the energy sector, a step that will not only facilitate the establishment of large energy projects, but will inspire confidence in investors and companies looking to enter the Myanmar energy market for the first time or extend their existing operations.
In addition to building the right institutional environment, the government is also committed to developing long-term strategies for the energy sector. Expanding energy access whilst enabling economic growth is one of our priorities, and to that end, we have already offered numerous offshore and onshore blocks for the development of natural gas and oil facilities. These will help to fulfil the country’s energy requirements and any surplus can be used to make value-added products. Exporting value-added products will bring in revenues that can then be reinvested in schemes to improve living standards, infrastructure and education across the country. The government is aware of the scale of the challenge to meet domestic demand for energy and is also keen to use this activity in the energy sector to build electricity networks and encourage private and international companies to devote some of their resources to developing the Myanmar economy through local schemes.
To achieve environmental sustainability in the energy sector, we must look at investing more in renewable energies. The government has invested heavily in hydroelectric plants and has identified a potential for further projects. But we recognize that expanding hydropower will only meet a fraction of our country’s growing energy demand. For the long term, we will need to explore more closely the options for coal, solar, wind and thermal power and work with our international partners to ensure that projects can be completed on a meaningful scale and in a way that benefits local communities.
These long-term strategies for energy generation, combined with an efficient institutional framework, will allow the government to lead this new phase of development in Myanmar. Our economy faces significant challenges, and much has yet to be done. But by establishing the right macroeconomic environment and offering guiding strategies, we can shape a sustainable, accessible and secure future for a sector that is so important to our economic growth.
Author: U Than Htay is the Minister of Energy of Myanmar
Image: A man is seen riding a motorcycle in a newly constructed road in Myanmar REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang