Jun 7, 2011

Improved power brings better business climate

More rain, bigger hydroelectric dams and a new gas pipeline have combined to make Yangon's electricity supply vastly more reliable than last year.

In the 2010 hot season temperatures soared during the months of March, April and May and the air was filled with the noise and smog of generators as businesses did their best to make power when the mains supply was out, as it frequently was.

Figures from the Yangon Electricity Supply Board (YESB) shine a light on how much better the power supply to the city has been this year – about 40 percent, in fact.

In March 2011, Yangon Region received about 362,000 megawatt hours (MWH) of electricity, an increase of about 40pc on the same month in 2010, the figures show. In April 2011, 368,750MWH of electricity were supplied to Yangon Region, a 40.7pc jump on the 262,000MWH recorded a year earlier.

By May 19, Yangon had already received nearly 78,000MWH more than it had for the whole month of May in 2010.

A spokesperson for YESB said the increased electricity supply was largely the result of increased output from hydroelectric stations courtesy of better rainfall and improved catchments. Another factor has been the completion of a natural gas pipeline from the Yadana offshore gas project to Yangon, which nearly doubled the supply of natural gas to the city.

On June 9, 2010, the then-Minister for Energy, U Lun Thi, opened the 24-inch pipeline to Yangon, which increased the amount of natural gas supplied to the city's electricity generation plants from 110 million cubic feet of gas a day to about 200.

For the manager of General Food Technology Industry Company, which processes and exports fisheries products at its factories in Insein township, the electricity supply this year has been remarkable because it was available every day.

"The most important time for our factories is from 4pm to 10pm when our freezers are working at full capacity," said U Myo Nyunt.

"This year the electricity has been quite regular during that period. But last year we had no choice but to run our generators, which use up to 20 gallons of diesel an hour. It was really tough for the business," said U Myo Nyunt.

He said that during May 2010, there was a period of seven consecutive days when the factory received little or no electricity supply. But by the middle of May this year the worst power cut had lasted for five hours and most days there were no cuts at all, he said.

For businesses in the six downtown townships, it's a similar story: Where last year it was rare to have power, in 2011 it is power cuts that are unusual, said Daw Phyu Phyu Tin, the owner of Monsoon Restaurant on Thein Byu Road.

"We spent about K100,000 buying diesel in April this year, which was a major relief because in the same month last year we bought more 300 gallons, which cost us more than K1 million," she said.

For businesses in Yangon's industrial zones, the improved electricity supply has saved thousands of dollars that would otherwise have been spent fuelling generators.

A spokesperson for United Wood Company at Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone said electricity has regularly been supplied to the zone from 7am to 4pm each day.

"After 4pm the electricity is cut and sometimes the voltage is quite low but we have our own transformer.

"Last year we got electricity from 7am to noon but we suffered frequent cuts," the spokesperson said, adding that this year blackouts have been rare and limited to about 30 minutes when they occur.

"When we must use our 350 kilovolt ampere [KVA] generator it consumes about 7 gallons an hour. We also have a 215KVA generator that uses about 4 gallons an hour" but that isn't sufficient for all operations, the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson from Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone Management Committee confirmed that supply has been much better this year.

"We've had electricity nearly every day from the hours of 7am to 5pm," he said.

During the same months last year businesses in the zone were split into two groups, with one group getting a maximum of five hours of electricity in the morning, and the other group getting the same amount in the afternoon.

"But within that five-hour period we probably only got between two and three hours because there were frequent cuts," he added.

He said the chronic electricity shortages that hit Yangon during the 2010 dry season had abated by mid June. He added that the improved supply this year had not come at an increase in per unit charges.

However, not everybody is happy to see regular electricity supplied to Yangon.

Zaw Naing Heavy Machinery Co Ltd sells and leases generators from its 53rd Street office in Pazundaung township. A company spokesperson said business has been bad this year.

"Last year's sales and leases were 60 percent higher than this year's," said U Zaw Naing. The company stocks or can supply generators ranging from 5KVA through to 500KVA, he said.

Another generator supplier, Top Machinery Trading Co Ltd in Kamaryut township, has seen an even more dramatic fall in sales, according to a company spokesperson.

"Our sales are down by 90pc compared to last year," said Ma Hnin Pwint Zin, a spokesperson for the company.
Source: Myanmar Times