Much of Myanmar is so far off globalization’s trail that even the internal combustion engine is a rarity and diesel fuel unavailable. All labor is done by hand, transport is by ox-cart and candles provide the only light source for most of the countryside.
But this also means that renewable energies are not just low carbon, sustainable options, but really the only option available. As Min Chan Win, CEO of Myanmar Eco Solutions observed, “If you want lighting in the remote areas, solar is the only practical way to do it.” Other than renewables, “there are no real options,” he said.
Most of Myanmar is in a greenfield condition, with no legacy of fossil power generation — or any power generation — to work against or replace. Also, no one expects the central grid to expand into remote areas for at least a decade, if not longer. Flexible, decentralized community-based renewable energy systems like solar are therefore the best way to power the countryside. Solar lamps and water pumps are part of the equation, as is micro-hydro in the mountains and biomass gasifiers and charcoal makers in the rice belt and even tidal power along the coasts.
Tim Schroeder, project coordinator for German NGO Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Myanmar, said in an email, "I believe that all could provide good solutions, especially small-scale hydro power systems and solar energy."
Myanmar is one of Asia’s more dominant rice growers, producing 25 million tons annually. Abouit 20 percent of this crop (5-6 million tons) is waste product — rice husks that are typically disposed. Since 2006, though, Myanmar has been transforming these husks via biomass gasifiers
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