How to promote solar technologies in Myanmar

Empowering the civil society and raising awareness of the people about solar energy among global electricity campaign, with the support of a national media campaign

After the Committee 2 meeting of NGO Green Lotus about the stakes of solar energy in Myanmar, which took place on the 24th of january 2015, and thanks to the ideas launched on the 29th of January in Nay Pyi Taw at the World Bank’s workshop on national off-grid electrification, Green Lotus decided to gather the conclusions of these events and to participate in the implementation of solar technologies in Myanmar. To achieve this goal, a sensitization and technical training could be implemented and is detailed in this note.  

Context in Myanmar

Myanmar’s government, in coordination with international agencies (WB, ADB, JICA, UNDP), should approve Myanmar’s “National Electrification Plan” (NEP) that aims at electrifying 100% of Myanmar’s households by 2030. Where possible, grid extension remains the preferred option to scale-up electricity access. But with 65% of the population living in rural areas, off-grid options cannot be ignored.

Solar energy projects have been implemented in developing countries for the last 25 years. More recently, it has been widespread not only because of rising climate change awareness and interest in sustainable development but because solar power energy has undeniable assets. The source of energy is free, endless and available almost everywhere. Furthermore, solar technology is a proven, cost effective method for decentralized rural areas. Myanmar’s potential for solar energy reached a large consensus amongst main stakeholders but currently solar energy represents only 116 kW1 of the national supply.

Moreover, to ensure Myanmar’s sustainable development, it is necessary to mobilize the civil society around environmental stakes, and to encourage the participation of the population in the implementation of solar technologies. Empowerment of the population is mandatory to ensure the trust of the policy makers in the implementation of their project.

But several malfunctions are spotted in many rural areas: the absence of knowledge of the technical side of the solar panels (dust, wire damage, shadowed areas…) is critical among rural populations, so solar panels are not functioning as well as they’re supposed to, or are even not working at all due to the lack of technical skill to repair them. Besides, this malfunction creates a mistrust among the populations who would not be ready to try using it again.

The global lack of formation and misunderstanding of this promising technology stands in the way of its global implementation.

The government is already aware of the necessity of solar technologies’ use in rural areas, while the national grid is slowly making its way through the country; it is fair to presume that the “donors” (ADB, KfW, Jica) will provide the government and CSOs with financial and technical support to help the off-grid reaching rural areas.

Contents of the program

To guarantee the success of an off-grid solar electrification, the civil society must be involved in its implementation, and aware of the environmental stakes.

Green Lotus offers to launch a training program designed for the civil society and members of parliament, about the stakes and the functioning of solar home systems and mini-grid solar systems. These trainings are to be supported by a mass media campaign all over the country about the benefits of solar technologies.

Part 1: Technical formation of rural populations and CSOs

  1. Green Lotus will create and design technical formation toolkits (DVDs, brochures) addressed to rural areas populations where solar technologies are already in place. Villagers need to be trained to supervise the maintenance of the system and change devices such as batteries. Even where private companies manage operational maintenance, there needs to be a clear line of trust and understanding between the villagers and company employees. Attention needs to be given to the continuity of services provided, and not only the sale of solar panels.
  2. Furthermore, Green Lotus and its partners will work together to implement the formation of trainers, who will dedicate their time to visit villages using solar technologies to share their technical knowledge with the formation tools Green Lotus would have created.
  3. Trainings will be provided by Green Lotus (and Green Lotus trainees) to CSOs in rural areas where solar technologies are not implemented yet. The aim of these trainings is to increase their awareness of the benefits of solar technologies on their daily life and to prepare them to the upcoming solar off-grid technologies.

Part 2: Formation of MPs

  1. Even if the government is now convinced with the importance and benefits of solar technologies in its off-grid electrification aims, some members of parliament have shown great interest in receiving additional knowledge on how this technology works and how it can be financially interesting to implement.

In this perspective, Green Lotus suggest the implementation of trainings, specifically dedicated to members of parliament. The program would allow the participants to learn more about the global solar market in Myanmar and in South-east Asia, the potential for this type of energy in Myanmar, the existing and daily use of solar technologies by the inhabitants, and the issues in place. This training will provide them with the key elements regarding solar technologies in Myanmar and will facilitate their part in the current talks about the off-grid national electrification plan.

Part 3: (Cross-cutting activity) Launching of a mass media campaign

  1. Green Lotus recommends the launching of a mass media campaign about solar technology products and the positive effects of solar technologies (health, savings, and efficiency). Such a campaign would increase the population’s awareness on solar, make them more familiar with this technology (and therefore more incline to implement it in their own homes), and show the implication of their government in renewable energies.

 

Time of implementation

The creation of the technical formation toolkits will be launched at the same time as the formation of the trainers, the training of the MPs, the training of the civil society and the media campaign. After the creation of the toolkits and the formation of the trainers, they will get to the concerned rural areas and start the trainings.

The training programs would be pursued for one year, to allow the trainers to travel through the country and meet the targeted communities, and Green Lotus team to organize as many formations for MPs and CSOs as necessary, to different audiences, according to their availability.

The formation for the MPs would have to take place during week-ends to match with their timetables.

The media campaign would consist in posters in Myanmar’s biggest cities, and newspaper articles and advertisement. Business-oriented advertisement will have to be implemented with government-oriented messages, to show the government’s implication in renewable energies.