Electrification and economic growth in Myanmar

Project Active from to Energy

After decades of economic isolation, Myanmar now sees electrification as a national priority for growth. However, Myanmar is starting from energy poverty, as per capita levels are one-fourth of India’s, one-tenth of Vietnam’s or about one-two hundredth of America’s.

The government of Myanmar initiated a National Electrification Plan (NEP) to bring electricity to the 6.7 million households without electricity. Designed in 2013/14, the NEP acted as the first blueprint for how to bring electricity access to the entire country by 2030. Behind the NEP is a geospatial least-cost algorithm which identifies the most cost-efficient technologies (grid, mini-grid, off-grid) for electrification and which subsequently draws the optimal expansion path for the national grid.

The objective of this project is to conduct a thorough revision of the NEP and write the blueprint for the government to electrify the country by 2030. The original plan requires major updates to reflect the recent progress in electricity access (grid and off-grid) and in improvements in the quality of data in Myanmar. A combination of weak data and limited internal buy-in meant that the initial plan lacked legitimacy by staff, with its findings only loosely being followed.

The researchers aim to answer fundamental questions about the aggregate and spillover effects of electrification on communities. The long-term research goal has two components. First, the researchers measure the aggregate (village-level) benefits of electrification with a quasi-experimental design comparing villages in consecutive phases of the NEP across Myanmar. Second, the researchers measure the spill-over benefits of electrification through a within-village design varying access to connection subsidies and/or loans.

Given the conflicting micro-evidence on the impact of electrification on livelihoods, this unique setup will enable the researchers to gain rigorous insight into the dynamic effects of electrification on a scale not studied previously.