Energy poverty in Myanmar: only 34% of the population have grid quality electricity

Press release, 10 May 2016

Research shared at a workshop in Yangon with government officials, private sector and civil society organisations shows that, at most, only 34 per cent of the population has access to grid quality electricity, and 38,000 villages have no electricity at all.

A man transports firewood on a cart. Firewood is the primary fuel for most rural households in Myanmar. It is time consuming and expensive and there are concerns about the health impacts of indoor pollution (Photo: Soneva Foundation, Creative Commons via Flickr)

The findings are the early results from research carried out by three international organisations – the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), IIED and the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR).

Access to modern energy, both electricity and clean cooking solutions, is crucial for reducing poverty and driving sustainable economic development. The new global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed at the end of 2015 recognise this by including a goal on ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy by 2030.

The research also shows that one of the biggest barriers to accessing electricity in Myanmar is affordability. Connecting to the grid is currently prohibitive for most households, costing up to US$900 per connection.

There is also a perception that "off-grid" solar home systems are poor quality and unreliable. Another important point is that consumer demand in peak times is greater than supply, so even the needs of those connected to the grid are not being fully met.

For cooking, firewood is the primary fuel for more than two thirds of households, raising concerns about negative health impacts from indoor pollution. 

Myanmar has set ambitious national targets with electrification of 50 per cent of households by 2020 and up to 100 per cent by 2030. But meeting these targets could prove a challenge without new approaches, including supporting reliable and affordable solutions for people living off the grid.

The Yangon workshop on 5 May, 2016 presented an innovative approach to designing energy services so they meet the needs of people living in energy poverty and are sustainable over the long term, the Energy Delivery Model (EDM) approach. It follows similar events held in Cambodia and Indonesia that are the first phase of a regional project by CAFOD, IIED and IESR.

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