Back in black: electricity rotation system returns

By Kyaw Hsu Mon and Yamon Phu Thit
Volume 32, No. 622
April 9 - 15, 2012

An employee at a generator store in Yangon.
Pic: Seng Mai

DUST off those generators and inverters – after months of relatively reliable electricity supply, rotating cuts have returned to Yangon.

Yangon Electricity Supply Board (YESB) said on March 29 that the rotation system, under which townships receive two days of 18-hour electricity followed by one 12-hour day, would come into effect on April 2.

YESB vice president U Maung Maung Latt told The Myanmar Times the system was necessary because electricity production during the hot season could not keep pace with demand. Rationing will likely continue through to July, when the monsoon will top up the nation’s hydroelectric dams.

U Maung Maung Latt said YESB had created four six-hour shifts: 5am to 11am; 11am to 5pm; 5pm to 11pm; and 11pm to 5am.

“The three groups will be divided based on township,” he said. “Two groups receive 18 hours of electricity one day and the other group will receive only 12 hours. But the latter will receive 18 hours the next day. The three groups will rotate like that.”

Meanwhile, a fourth group, comprising hospitals, schools, armed forces, police stations, prisons, banks, the airport, railway stations, communication departments, some government offices and embassies, will continue to receive a 24-hour supply.

Industrial zones are also facing cuts: factories have been divided into two groups, with one receiving electricity from 6am to 11am and the other from 11am to 4pm.

Government factories and businesses using domestic meters have also been instructed to halt operations during times of peak electricity usage

“The state-owned iron smelting plants and irrigation projects have to stop operations from 5pm to 11pm because this is the peak time for electricity use in Yangon,” U Maung Maung Latt said.

“But during water festival when most of the factories and businesses are closed we can provide a better electricity supply,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said electricity consumption in Yangon had increased, hitting a high of 750 megawatts in early March.

“This is a new record to reach 750 MW. The highest record for previous year was only 650 MW,” he said. “If we had the capacity consumption would be even higher.”

“Electricity consumption has also increased in other states and regions,” he said, adding that about half of the country’s electricity supply was used in Yangon.

The introduction of the rotation system is likely to push up production costs as businesses and factories rely on more expensive generators for electricity.

“We normally order wire netting from factories and they used to supply it to us regularly,” said Ma Mie Mie, owner of Thitsar Eain building material shop in the Bayintnaung area of Hlaing township. “But now the electricity is not regular and the factories cannot supply our orders in time. We are facing a shortage of materials and angry customers.”

The owner of a sawmill in South Okkalapa Industrial Zone said businesses were prepared for electricity shortages, particularly in the hot season.

“Production costs will increase because we have to work with generators,” he said. “I don’t know exactly how much but it will be more than last year because fuel prices have risen.

“It would be better if we could get a steady five hours of electricity a day like we are meant to under the rotation system rather than an irregular supply.”