News / Asia

Burma's Power Sector Balancing International, Domestic Demand

A woman, top left, stands at a balcony of her apartment near a lamp post jumbled with electric cables in Rangoon, Burma, Jan. 27, 2014.
A woman, top left, stands at a balcony of her apartment near a lamp post jumbled with electric cables in Rangoon, Burma, Jan. 27, 2014.
Gabrielle Paluch
Burma's rich natural resources include oil and gas in abundance, in largely unexplored blocks.  As those blocks are drilled, the government faces questions about revenue transparency, and how to balance building a domestic power market with exports.

Minister of Energy Zaya Aung postponed the anticipated announcement of the winners of the offshore gas exploration bidding at an oil and gas conference in Rangoon this week, but assured reporters that revenue from oil and gas sales would be publicly reported in the national budget.

"It is very easy because all of the budgets incoming from the oil and gas sector it goes to our country's budget," he said.

In the past, international rights groups have accused members of the government of depositing revenue from large energy projects and natural resource sales in private offshore bank accounts.

As the country's final remaining unexplored reserves are being allocated,  Burma, also known as Myanmar, is preparing to become a member of EITI, an international extractive industries transparency watchdog group.

According to the ministry of energy in 2012, Burma has over 25 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, mostly offshore, and 2.1 billion barrels of oil reserves, most of it in completely unexplored fields. These figures are unconfirmed, and largely disputed. British Petroleum's annual 2013 annual statistical review of the world's energy puts Burma's gas reserves at just 0.2 trillion cubic feet.

Burma suffers from power shortages despite its natural resources, and over three quarters of Burma's electricity for the domestic market is generated through hydropower.

The Burmese government plans to get 80 percent of households in the country on the power grid by 2030, according to a 2013 electrification plan put together with the Japanese government's development agency.  Burma's current electrification rate is below 30 perecent, one of the lowest in Asia.  Power demand is expected to double in the next fifteen years, according to the ministry of energy.

Minister Zaya Aung told reporters they would continue to require 20 percent of gas from both onshore and offshore blocks remain for use in the domestic market.

John Roberts, a specialist in the energy sector and securities consultant said it was likely the government would be able to be transparent with its reporting of oil and gas income, though he said it was not uncommon for oil and gas companies to provide members of government with a way to accumulate funds to which they were not entitled.

He said, however, that the government faced a greater challenge in maintaining accountability and political stability as it balanced the export market with increasing domestic demand.

"In the case of Myanmar the key issue is how much gas and oil get developed for the export market and how much do you develop it for a rapidly developing domestic market in order to make sure you don't get brownouts. The other question of course is that of regional and political stability," said Roberts.

This week, hundreds in Kanbauk, Tenasserim division in southern Burma,  gathered to protest against several large oil companies operating there, after they were angered by environmental damage and their poor electricity supply despite being so close to power generating resources.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid