Electricity in Myanmar: The Missing Prerequisite for Development

David Dapice, May 2012

Electricity is a fundamental input to every modern economy. Electricity consumption per capita in Myanmar is among the lowest in Asia and had been growing very slowly since the 1980s. It gently grew from 45 kWh per capita in 1987 to 99 kWh in 2008, a 3.8 percent annual growth rate. However, since 2008, the production of electricity has jumped very quickly. This 50 percent jump in three years is about 15 percent per year, far higher than in the past. The CSO does not report any increase in installed capacity since 2009/10, so the existing system is being worked much more intensively. This creates problems, such as the risk of sudden outages from failures in generators. Indeed, there has been an increase in blackouts in the Yangon and Mandalay areas in the last year in spite of higher output; and even during the wet season. With increases in tourism, exports and overall economic activity, electricity demand will continue to soar. Even with 2011/12 output, estimated consumption in Myanmar is only about 160 kWh per capita, compared to 2009 consumption of over 250 kWh per capita in Bangladesh and nearly 600 in Indonesia. Vietnam had over 1000 kWh per capita in 2011.