In stark contrast to the developed nations where reliable power supply is available to all, access to electricity is still a challenge faced by the rural communities in most developing nations. The case is no different in Myanmar, where currently about 70 per cent of the population lacks access to grid-connected electricity supply. However, with the advancements in technologies as well as reductions in the cost of solar cells and modules, solar energy may help the country overcome the challenge of energy poverty.
Solar minigrids can be rapidly deployed and financed with private capital. Thus, a number of organisations have now started developing and investing in such projects. Yoma Micro Power is one such company that builds, owns and operates small-scale power plants and minigrids in the rural areas of Myanmar. These systems provide electricity to telecommunication towers as well as households, schools, monasteries, clinics and businesses.
The company aims to build a better Myanmar by harnessing sustainable energy resources and expanding affordable, reliable electricity supply in the country. It hopes to achieve this through rural electrification, powering off-grid telecom towers and installing commercial and industrial rooftop solar.
- Rural electrification: Yoma Micro Power provides electricity to the unelectrified communities from solar-storage-diesel hybrid micropower plants. The company uses a mobile-based payment mechanism to simplify tariff collection, while bringing in previously unbanked customers into the banking and financial sectors. Yoma Micro Power has set up two of its minigrids in Thet Seint Gyi and Leik Chan, Myanmar. In both the regions, it has also provided electric power pumping services for domestic and agricultural use, thereby improving the living conditions of these communities. These success stories have attracted the interest of local government bodies in Myanmar. In June 2018, the regional government of Sagaing approved over 100 such microgrid projects to be set up in the province.
- Off-grid telecom towers: There are over 10,000 off-grid telecom towers in Myanmar that use an estimated 125,000,000 litres of diesel every year, and emit over 300,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases. Yoma Micro Power provides these towers with an alternative solar solution that is free from greenhouse gas emissions and has lower operational costs than diesel generators. Yoma Micro Power also provides uptime guarantees to telecom companies through service-level agreements to ensure reliable power for their customers.
- Commercial and industrial: The company builds, owns, operates and maintains grid-connected, rooftop solar systems atop commercial buildings in the Yangon region. While low grid electricity prices in Myanmar have inhibited the expansion of the rooftop photovoltaic (PV) market, Yoma Micro Power’s projects are attractive for commercial and industrial users requiring reliable power supply. Two of the company’s rooftop PV systems are located at the Yoma Group Campus (26 kW) and Star City Apartments (52 kW) in Yangon.
Yoma’s initiatives and remarkable growth story have not just attracted the interest of Myanmar’s regional governments but also international funding agencies. The company boasts of an investor base comprising Yoma Strategic Holdings, Norfund and International Finance Corporation (IFC). Yoma Strategic Holdings has the maximum share of 35 per cent in the company while Norfund and IFC have a 30 per cent share each. The IFC’s recent investment in Yoma Micro Power will help the company raise up to $28 million through equity and debt financing. The remaining 5 per cent stake is held by Alakesh Chetia, chief executive officer, Yoma Micro Power.
In the future, the company is planning to increase the scale as well as the number of projects across Myanmar, while helping the country reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and lower its carbon emissions. Companies like Yoma Micro Power can help Myanmar achieve one of its Intended Nationally Determined Climate targets – to provide electricity to 6 million people in the rural areas by using at least 30 per cent renewable sources.