China in talks to sell electricity to Myanmar amid warming ties

Dhaka,  Fri,  22 September 2017
Published : 04 Aug 2017, 21:14:27
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China in talks to sell electricity to Myanmar amid warming ties

YANGON, Aug 4 (Reuters): Energy-hungry Myanmar is in initial talks to buy electricity from China, according to officials and documents reviewed by Reuters, in the latest sign of warming ties with Beijing under leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Since taking office in April last year, Suu Kyi has sought to repair relations that were strained when a previous semi-civilian government in 2011 blocked a China-backed dam, which was supposed to send most of its electricity to China's Yunnan province.

China's appetite for the hydro project has waned in recent years, as a switch towards less energy-intensive industries amid an economic slowdown has left Yunnan province with a surplus of power.

Instead, Beijing has turned its attention to other projects that fit with its "Belt and Road" initiative, which aims to stimulate trade by investment in infrastructure throughout Asia and beyond.

Three Chinese state-owned companies have proposed separate plans to plug Myanmar's national power grid into Yunnan's electricity network, according to documents reviewed by Reuters and two people familiar with the talks.

Rural Yunnan, which generates around 85 per cent of its electricity from hydropower, already sends surplus power to more developed eastern China, as well as Vietnam and Laos.

While China has been supplying power on a small scale to some remote Myanmar towns near their shared border, the talks are the first to discuss connecting the national grids of the two countries to meet Myanmar's urgent demand for electricity.

With only a third of Myanmar's population connected to the grid and major cities experiencing blackouts, buying electricity from Yunnan could be a short-term solution to boost its power supply, the two people familiar with the talks said.

"China welcomes the plan, but Myanmar is still reviewing the details," said one of the people, a senior Myanmar energy official.

The "government-to-government talks" were still at an early stage, the official added, with details such as price and timing still to be worked out.

"It's one of the many options we are considering," the official said. Htain Lwin, spokesman of Myanmar's ministry of electricity and energy, confirmed initial talks had taken place but declined to comment further.
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