ADB, Norway to Help Update Myanmar Electricity Law

Photo by VJ Villafranca

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Government of Norway will provide an $850,000 technical assistance (TA) grant to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to help Myanmar update its 1984 Electricity Law so that it reflects current international standards, and creates the right conditions for establishing an electricity regulator, expanding rural electrification, and promoting off-grid solutions.

“The development and implementation of a National Electricity Law is the first step to meeting the country’s power needs,” said Stephen Groff, ADB Vice President of Operations in East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

As the country opens and economic sanctions are removed, huge numbers of visitors are pouring into the country. The local population can now more readily buy household electrical appliances and local businesses are expanding rapidly. All of this has placed an enormous strain on the power supply network, which is often unreliable in urban centers and barely extends to Myanmar’s rural areas.

“Energy access for all is a priority for Norway. Without access to modern energy, there can be no development,” said Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs during a visit to Myanmar on 5 November. “Having an updated Electricity Law, putting the proposed law into use, and conducting initial capacity building on principles of electricity regulation is essential for the development of Myanmar’s power sector, and an important contribution to the development of Myanmar’s economy and the welfare of its people.”

The TA grant will support the drafting of energy legislation to gradually unbundle generation, transmission, and distribution subsectors; allow private sector participation in power generation; establish rules and regulations for small independent power producers to promote off-grid electrification; implement rural electrification programs; and establish an electricity regulator consistent with internationally-recognized best practices.

The desire to update the law reflects the Government’s recognition that foreign direct investment will be required to meet the massive level of spending needed in the power sector, and that the lack of a comprehensive and transparent regulatory framework is impeding private sector participation in the power sector.

The TA grant will also be used to review various regulatory systems or laws applied to power sectors within and outside the region in order to formulate appropriate legislation that best suits Myanmar. Secondary legislation, and rules and regulations to implement various provisions of the Electricity Law, as well as create an Electricity Regulatory Authority, will be developed.

Drafting of the legislation and implementing rules and regulation will be carried out by the Ministry of Electric Power, in conjunction with other government departments, the private sector, civil society, parliamentarians, and development partners. It is expected to take 18 months, with completion targeted for June 2014. The TA grant, provided by the Government of Norway, will be administered by ADB.