Kachin hydroelectric plants to power nation, and China
January 31-February 6, 2011
KACHIN State will become the major electricity producing region in Myanmar when 18 joint-venture projects currently under construction are completed, government officials said last week.
The state-run New Light of Myanmar reported on January 24 that the 18 projects, which are being implemented in partnership with Chinese companies, will produce a combined 20,760 megawatts (MW) of electricity.
Speaking at the opening of the 240MW Tarpein-1 plant on January 23, Prime Minister U Thein Sein said the project was an example of the “friendly cooperation between Myanmar and China”.
The Ministry of Electric Power 1 and Datang (Yunnan) United Hydropower Developing Co began construction on Tarpein-1 on December 19, 2007. The Chinese company will operate the dam, located on the Tarpein River about 45 kilometres northeast of Bhamo in Moemauk township, for 30 years under the build, operate, transfer system.
The first 60MW turbine came online in September, providing electricity to Bhamo, Mansi, Momauk and Shwegu townships in southern Kachin State.
“The production capacity of Bhamo District … was previously restricted due to insufficiency in electricity, but Bhamo is picking [up] now,” said Brigadier General Zayar Aung, head of Northern Command, before adding: “Kachin State will become the main source of electricity for [Myanmar].”
In a thinly veiled message to the Kachin Independence Organisation, both the prime minister and Brig Gen Zayar Aung “urged local brethren” to ensure “stability for locals to enjoy the benefits” of the new hydropower projects.
It is not clear what proportion of total production at Tarpein-1 will be reserved for domestic use but residents in Bhamo confirmed they began receiving a significantly improved supply of electricity about three months ago, when the first turbine at Tarpein-1 came online.
“We now have 24-hour electricity with full voltage. Up until three months ago we were getting only 12 hours a day, at night, and we had to use a [voltage] regulator because we were only receiving about 60 volts,” said U Khin Maung Thin from Bhamo township.
He said the Department of Electricity had provided 10 extra transformers to cope with the increased electricity supply.
“We have never had enough electricity, particularly in the day time. There was a serious lack of electricity in this region before.”
Tarpein-1 is the first of 18 Kachin State hydropower projects to come online, according to last week’s report. The largest is the Myitsone dam near Myitkyina, which when completed will generate 6000MW – almost double the country’s present installed capacity of 3285MW.