Power sector in 2030
Myanmar’s NDC has set targets for the country’s power sector. Under the BAU scenario a four-fold increase of total installed capacity is forecasted between 2020 and 2030 (from 6 to 24 GW), with coal accounting for 44% of new capacity. This would be a massive expansion of the country’s coal-fired power stations, from 120 to 7940 MW over the stated period. Coal capacity sees large increases even under the unconditional and conditional NDC scenarios (3620 and 2120 MW in 2030 respectively).
Natural gas’ capacity, 3031 MW in 2020, is forecast to increase by 57% under BAU and double under both of the NDC scenarios. Fossil fuels, which accounted for 53% of total capacity in 2020 would continue to hold this share of capacity in 2030 under BAU and the unconditional NDC. Under the conditional NDC, this share would decrease to 45%. Regardless of the scenario, fossil fuels are forecast to account for a large part of new capacity built between 2020-2030, from 41-54%.
Fossil fuel expansion has high up-front investment costs and would put the country at high risk of being locked in to a carbon intensive pathway. In contrast, 1.5°C compatible pathways show a phase-out of coal by 2030 and gas around the mid-2030s.
All scenarios, including BAU, forecast a large increase in wind and solar with hydro expected to remain the main source of renewable power. One should note that Myanmar already faces challenges due to its reliance on hydropower: from blackouts during dry seasons, to social and environmental issues arising from the construction of these projects.- It is estimated that the country has potential for 4032 MW of wind, but has yet to develop this resource. The country has one grid-scale solar project, the 170 MW Minbu Solar Power Plant, which will, upon completion, deliver 0.35 TWh/yr of power. This may be compared to the estimated 51,973 TWh/yr of solar potential in the country. Both the NDC’s conditional and unconditional 2030 targets would utilise only a fraction of the country’s vast renewable resources. By focusing on their renewable energy resources, Myanmar could realise greater emissions reductions, and at the same time avoid carbon lock-in and other risks from further fossil fuel investments.
Towards a fully decarbonised power sector
Under 1.5°C pathways emissions from Myanmar’s power sector are expected to decline 61-64% by 2030, relative to 2015. Power sector emissions have however increased dramatically in recent years: 136% between 2015 and 2019. Both the amount of power generation and emissions intensity of the sector have increased, 52% and 56% respectively, between 2015 and 2019. The increase in intensity is largely due to the fact that natural gas has accounted for 62% of the increase in generation over these years.
The majority of 1.5°C compatible pathways analysed here see power generation increasing. Under the median of pathways, total power generation will increase 40% from 2019 levels by 2030 and triple by 2050. This will be counterbalanced by a sharp decrease in emissions intensity, which will fall to around 10% of its 2019 value by 2030 (from 470 to between 40-50 gCO₂/kWh) and reach net zero between 2035-2036.
By 2030, 1.5°C compatible pathways have renewables (including both variable and conventional) making up at least half of the power mix and accounting for the entirety of power generation by 2040. This may reflect the historic significance of hydropower in Myanmar’s power generation mix. However, much like the two NDC scenarios, there will likely be a ramp up of variable renewables from their less than 1% share in generation in 2019. The conditional NDC has variable renewables contributing over 16% to power generation by 2030.