Myanmar plans energy investments as cities struggle with daily power outages

A woman works on her sewing machine with mobile lighting during a power outage in Yangon
A woman works on her sewing machine with mobile lighting during a power outage in Yangon, Myanmar, May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Ann Wang

April 21 (Reuters) - Myanmar's junta government plans to increase investment in the energy sector, seeking to shore up the supply of power as the country grapples with lengthy daily blackouts, its information minister said on Thursday.

The outages have compounded economic woes faced by ordinary citizens still reeling from the turmoil that has ensued since the military seized power last year.

Minister of Information Maung Maung Ohn blamed the outages on rising liquefied natural gas prices due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and on what he called "terrorist action" linked to the People's Defence Force, a group backed by an underground government set up to rival the junta.

He repeated denials of a fuel shortage. Long queues of motorists were seen at petrol stations earlier this week but have since mostly subsided. read more

"Rumours of a shortage that have spread on social media are misinformation," he told a virtual briefing, adding that Myanmar had 45 million gallons of petrol and 70 million gallons of diesel in stock.

Maung Maung Ohn said the government's energy investments will centre on repairing infrastructure and on natural gas and renewable energy.

Myanmar has embarked on solar projects with a combined capacity of 390-megawatts and announced tenders for another 18 with a combined capacity of 635-MW. A 1,390-megawatt LNG-power plant being built with three Chinese companies is slated to begin operations in 2027.

The operation of Myanmar's largest gas field, the Yadana, has not been affected by the withdrawal of TotalEnergies SE (TTEF.PA), Investment Minister Aung Naing Oo told the same briefing.

Chevron Corp (CVX.N) has also said it would exit, but the government has not received formal notification, he added.

He noted the field's output has been declining since 2021. The oil majors pulled out of the country citing the humanitarian situation.

Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production Pcl (PTTEP.BK) plans to take over the field's operations in July. Its parent firm PTT Pcl (PTT.BK) and other companies that operate in a special economic zone are exempt from a central bank order requiring foreign exchange deposits to be converted to local currency, said Aung Naing Oo.

Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng in Bangkok; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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