With ABB’s help, Solar Impulse – and solar electricity – are coming to Myanmar

2015-03-19 - From NASA satellites in space, Myanmar appears as a dark area compared to the country's more-illuminated neighbors due to its lack of electrical lighting. ABB will help change that, via solar-powered rural electrification that will directly impact the lives of 3,000 people

ABB has announced that it will partner with non-profit organisation Pact Myanmar to bring solar power to a rural village in Myanmar, where ABB opened an office in 2014. ABB will soon switch on the lights in Yay Htwet Gyi, a village near Mandalay, Myanmar, improving livelihoods and bringing a brighter future for hundreds of children. ABB photo/Mick Ryan
ABB is working to bring solar electricity to 10 communities in Myanmar, the latest step in the company's broader 15-year-old "Access to Electricity" program to expand rural electrification that not only boosts educational opportunities and improves healthcare in developing countries but helps strengthen vulnerable local economies.

The project, where ABB is working with non-profit Pact Myanmar, will establish solar battery charging stations run by women’s groups in remote villages in the Tada Oo township in central Myanmar. Power from these stations will be sold to communities, bringing not merely electricity but economic self-sufficiency, entrepreneurship and equality - and safety.

"I am excited," said U Thein Hla, a 70-year-old resident from Wun Pa Tae Village. "Now, we don’t need to worry about fire hazard associated with the use of candle light.”

Villagers in Yay Htwet Gyi, a village near Mandalay, earn less than $1 day farming local crops such as betel leaves. ABB will bring access to solar generated electricity, making a difference to thousands, and positively impacting education, healthcare and quality of life. ABB photo/Mick Ryan
The project's launch comes as Solar Impulse landed in Mandalay on March 19 on the first-ever round-the-world journey powered by the sun.

ABB and Solar Impulse, likely to stay in Myanmar until next week before flying on to China, have an innovation and technology alliance that in conjunction with ABB’s support of rural electrification in Myanmar demonstrates the potential of renewable energy in boosting economic growth while reducing resource consumption.

"I am very touched and excited about this project," Piccard said, after landing the Solar Impulse plane in Myanmar. "It demonstrates that ABB and Pact make our vision a reality."

Essential infrastructure

“Building up the energy infrastructure is essential to Myanmar’s future economic and social progress,” said Johan de Villiers, managing director of ABB in Singapore and Southeast Asia. “By supporting this grass-roots project, ABB will ensure that the communities around Mandalay will continue to benefit long after the Solar Impulse airplane has departed.”

Solar Impulse leaves Varanasi in India bound for Myanmar, where ABB opened an office in 2014 and where the company is promoting rural electrification. It's Solar Impulse's fourth destination, on the solar-powered plane's flight around the world. Copyright:Solar Impulse | Revillard | Rezo.ch

In addition, the program backed by ABB and Pact Myanmar will provide financial support to villages so they can buy solar equipment at the community level.

This project is the latest in ABB’s “Access to Electricity” rural electrification program, developed more than a decade ago as a response to the United Nations Global Compact that urged companies and organizations to provide greater assistance to least-developed countries.

Since becoming one of the first to enlist in the program, ABB has partnered with groups including in Rajasthan, India starting in 2005 to provide solar power for remote communities near Jodhpur.

Thousands benefit

In 2013, ABB expanded its commitment on the subcontinent to a village just across a river from Sundarbans National Parks, a United Nations’ World Heritage-designated Royal Bengal tiger reserve, as part of a project that will not only help villagers but also protect endangered wildlife.

Access to electricity and reliable lighting will help the villagers, especially the young to study at night under a stable light source. Here, a child sits in a schoolhouse in Yay Htwet Gyi. ABB photo/Mick Ryan
Thousands of people are benefiting from these programs, including artisan weavers who have increased productivity and profit, school children who now have light to study by and people seeking assistance from medical clinics where the availability of electricity is improving and extending services.

And now in Myanmar, where ABB opened an office last year in Yangon after an absence of 20 years to help the country develop its infrastructure, it’s estimated ABB’s support of Pact Myanmar’s Renewable Energy Fund will immediately provide 3,000 vulnerable people suffering from lack of electricity with power for their lighting, communication and health care needs.

“Students will be able to study at night," said Daw Kyi, a resident of Kyaung Kone Village, located about 130 kilometers west of Yangon. "This project promises a brighter future for our children."

According to the World Bank, more than three-quarters of Myanmar’s 50 million residents have no access electricity.

Lighting the darkness

Myanmar is graced with beautiful pagodas that are one of the hallmarks of the country's majority Buddhist religion, including the golden Shwedagon Pagoda that lights up the city center of Yangon.

Part of the project involves establishing solar battery charging stations to be run by women’s groups in remote villages thus encouraging economic self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship. Here, local women gather formally in Yay Htwet Gyi, just one of the villages where ABB will initiate an access to electricity solar program to touch the lives of thousands. ABB photo/Mick Ryan
From NASA satellites, however, the country appears far darker than its better-illuminated neighbors who are experiencing the benefits of electriciation in both rural and urban areas.

ABB aims to underscore how technology and innovation, via projects like this and its endeavor with Solar Impulse, offer the best opportunities for all communities to tackle energy challenges – whether it’s bringing electricity with fewer losses and greater efficiency from remote renewables installations to urban areas or simply powering a radio that fills rural villagers' lives with music.

“Whether it is on a small rural community level, nationally, or internationally, we have shown that the possibilities for decoupling economic growth from energy consumption and environmental pollution are very real,” de Villiers said.

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