Since March 2015, with financial support from Chevron, Shell and ABB, Pact has worked to improve access to renewable energy for families in Myanmar’s Dry Zone region. In response to energy challenges facing low-income families, Pact developed its flagship renewable energy program, the Ahlin Yaung Fund – “light” in Myanmar – as a market-based project that addresses basic supply and demand dynamics. Just 20 months after its launch, the Ahlin Yaung Fund has successfully provided clean energy to more than 105,000 people in rural Myanmar.
Despite its more than 200 sunny days each year, Myanmar faces daunting energy challenges. About 75 percent of households lack access to modern energy, and growth in demand is exceeding supply. Insufficient energy access disproportionately affects poor communities’ livelihoods, health, education and more. Low-income households, especially in rural areas, pay markedly higher energy prices, typically for environmentally unsound energy and lighting solutions such as wood, diesel, kerosene and candles. A recent Pact study found that people in rural villages can pay upwards of 25 times more per unit of energy than city dwellers.
While communities have many competing development needs, access to electricity stands out as a top priority.
“We have seen, through our Village Development Fund data collected from thousands of communities, that rural communities spend on average 20 percent of their development funds on energy, mostly from costly or inefficient sources,” said Richard Harrison, Pact’s country director in Myanmar.
Improving access to electricity is key to lifting the rural population out of poverty and enabling better education, health, productivity and environmental protection.
U Bo Kyaw, a community leader in one of Pact’s renewable energy project villages, sees solar energy as an immediate and realistic solution.
“Since we cannot depend on the hope of getting connected to the grid, solar energy is much more immediate and relevant to us," U Bo Kyaw said. "As long as there is sunlight, we will get the energy."
A key part of Pact’s rural electrification approach is fostering community ownership and community-led decision making and financial management. Ahlin Yaung villages use the project’s revolving fund mechanisms to cover down-payments for renewable energy systems. Interest generated on the loans goes back into the village funds, thereby contributing to development beyond electrification. To date, more than 300 villages have formed renewable energy committees to lead the day-to-day management of the project, including recruiting new clients, developing purchasing plans and mobilizing the community around renewable energy options. These committees have handled nearly $300,000 worth of renewable energy loans, helping the project reach 105,000 people in two years. These programs have been so successful that Pact is planning to engage in strategic partnerships with private companies and funders to increase access to power supplied by mini-grids.
The Ahlin Yaung Fund is helping changes lives. Access to clean and reliable energy brings not only light but household transformation. It increases productive hours and incomes, paving a brighter path to pursue dreams.
“The light is brighter than we used before and we can run our grocery shop late into the night. Our children can also study until 10 p.m.,” said U Aung Myint, a rural business owner in Singaung Village, Kawlin Township. “Our lifestyles have improved." His shop has become a small community hub for entertainment. Villagers gather in the evenings to watch their favorite television shows, further boosting his sales and profits.
Besides lighting, villagers say they hope to eventually use solar power for 24-hour electricity, cooking and more.
“Reaching 105,000 clients in such a short period is evidence of both enormous electricity needs and opportunities for alternative and cleaner energy sources," Harrison said. "Public and private investments in this all-important sector will cause far-reaching socio-economic advancement for communities, positive impact on the environment and a good return for investors."
For more information, contact Tenford Chitanana, firstname.lastname@example.org.