Mini-Grid Developers in Myanmar are Essential to Reducing Rural Poverty


It Takes Energy to Increase Incomes

Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. Roughly 26% of its population lives in poverty. In rural areas, where 70% of Myanmar’s residents live, poverty rates are twice as high as those in urban areas. What is holding Myanmar back? One major factor is access to affordable and reliable energy.

Myanmar’s government has set an ambitious goal to electrify 100% of the country by 2030. Universal access to energy is expected to provide an enormous boost to economic development, job creation, and infrastructure improvements, particularly in rural communities. However, this won’t be easy — Myanmar currently has the lowest electrification rate in South East Asia with only 50% of households connected to the national power grid. According to the World Bank, the country needs to double its installed power generation capacity over the next five to seven years to achieve universal electricity access by 2030.

Last June, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, in partnership with Smart Power Myanmar and supported by Chevron, kicked off the Mini-Grid Accelerator Program for Myanmar. The 5-month Mini-Grid Accelerator Program is supporting early and growth stage mini-grid developers. These developers are beginning to expand access to energy in rural and off-grid communities throughout the country.

Results So Far

Though COVID-19 and its resulting quarantines and travel restrictions created some unexpected challenges to our original plans, the retooled program has embraced and fully leveraged the virtual approach. The revised format is being delivered through online workshops, a vibrant e-learning community, and remote mentoring, bringing together both local and international experts.

We have seen some promising developments in the off-grid energy sector since we started the program in June. While it’s too soon to glimpse the long term impact of the program, here’s a short summary of recent developments and progress, by the numbers:

    • 40 Villages in Myanmar received temporary tariff reductions from program participants to reduce the economic impact of COVID-19;
    • 28 Regional and Silicon Valley executive mentors matched with 13 local mini-grid developers;
    • 12 New mini-grid sites initiated by program participants since the program began in June;
    • 9 Key stakeholder organizations (government agency leaders, local bank executives, local leaders) received briefings on off-grid energy sector trends and progress in Myanmar;
    • 7 Expert guest speakers from Husk Power Systems, Gham Power, Private Financing Advisory Network (PFAN), GIZ, and Chevron Technology Ventures shared valuable experience and insights;
    • 6 Interactive virtual workshops delivered on topics such as: mission and impact, business models, markets and customers, vendors and partners, and sources of capital.

What’s Next?

As we enter the final month of the Mini-Grid accelerator, each developer-mentor team is preparing and practicing for their “final pitch” presentation. There will be a modest prize awarded for the “best” investor pitch. However, the competition and related prize isn’t the main point. The value these developers gain from the program comes from the coaching they have received, as well as the experience in developing, refining, and practicing how to deliver a coherent and compelling story to prospective investors. In collaboration with Smart Power Myanmar, we are preparing them for productive conversations with funders who can provide the capital they need to grow. If we are successful, these mini-grid developers will unlock the capital they need to bring electricity, economic opportunities, and increased incomes to rural communities currently beyond the reach of Myanmar’s national electrical grid.

The Mini-Grid Accelerator for Myanmar program will hold its final Graduation and Awards Ceremony event on November 18, 2020.