20 years ago, Aung Moe Win visited a nearby village and saw a diesel generator being used to produce electricity. He gathered the necessary funds – mostly his own savings – and installed a 30kW generator, set up distribution lines, and connected the village’s 290 households, all without any formal training.
Aung Moe Win’s is one of more than 13,000 villages in Myanmar where similar bottom-up community electrification has taken place, proving that local talent and solutions exist to overcome energy poverty.
While this is truly remarkable, there are important challenges related to the reliability, cost, and environmental impact of these systems, such as:
- typically running for only 3-4 hours a day
- generating electricity at on average US$0.65/kWh
- using costly and polluting diesel fuel
In fact the World Bank estimates that it will cost Myanmar $30 billion to build a centralized electricity grid to deliver 100% access, in a country whose energy ministry has an annual budget of just $4 billion.
Rather than relegating the diesel systems for their flaws and ignoring Myanmar’s rural electricians’ hard-earned skills, Mee Panyar is helping them evolve and grow by transitioning from diesel to solar.
Formal education and training centers remain inaccessible to the existing electricians. To fill that gap, Mee Panyar's training programs take place in the village, and supportselectricians to hybridize their mini-grid with solar. By teaching proper operation and maintenance practices and displacing diesel with solar, the company can decrease household electricity prices by up to 50%, reduce carbon emissions by 60%, and create opportunity for productive uses.
Moreover, as communities take on these challenges, they create improved and secure livelihoods by building resilient local ecosystems. Off-grid renewable energy has the potential to create more than 4.5 million jobs globally and effective community involvement in striving for SDG 7 (universal energy access) can in that way be a major contributor for meeting SDG 8 (decent work). By building local workforces, communities are positioned as active agents of change.
Together with the electricians like Aung Moe Win, Mee Panyar hopes to transition Myanmar from one of the least electrified countries in the world to an example for community-driven energy development, green transitions, and livelihood creation.
Mee Panyar is a social enterprise based in Myanmar that trains rural electricians to build, operate, and maintain solar mini-grids.