(Bloomberg) -- Myanmar’s military government has opened talks on fuel imports with Russia as it seeks to ease blackouts that have continued for months, limiting millions of people to about four hours of daytime electricity.
Outages in Yangon and other cities began intwe January and have typically seen power cut off in at least two hour-long stretches each day, adding to hardships in an economy battered by the Covid-19 pandemic and last year’s coup.
“To ensure we can import enough fuel at a reasonable price, we are in negotiations with Russia and some other countries,” said Major General Zaw Min Tun, lead spokesman for the governing State Administration Council. “We hope we will see tangible improvements in addressing power outages starting from June, and will be able to address this issue in the second half.”
Russia’s Energy Ministry declined to comment.
Myanmar and Russia enjoy strong defense ties, with Moscow providing army training as well as selling weapons to the junta. However, the Southeast Asian country hasn’t typically required major energy imports for electricity because of its reliance on domestic supply.
Russia is one of the few countries that has shown support of the military government after it ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi last year.
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Myanmar halted some power plants amid surging costs of liquefied natural gas, which have touched record levels in recent months, while armed civilian groups have also disrupted transmission lines, according to Zaw Min Tun. LNG-fired plants will be brought back online once prices fall sufficiently, he said.
The nation only started importing LNG in 2020 via a small offshore facility, and has limited capacity to significantly boost deliveries to make up for a drop in domestic output.
Myanmar’s energy sector has also been roiled by plans for global firms including TotalEnergies SE and Chevron Corp. to exit operations after decades in protest over last year’s military coup.
Talks with Rustam Minnikhanov, president of the semi-autonomous Russian republic of Tatarstan, on Thursday during a visit to Myanmar included discussions on cooperation in the energy sector. Myanmar officials aim to resume operation of suspended oil refineries and build further sites. Tatarstan will assist with technology transfer and training, Zaw Min Tun said.
Efforts are also underway to boost hydro power and solar, add more gas-fired and waste heat projects, and to convert some fertilizer plants to generate power, said Aung Naing Oo, minister for investment and foreign economic relations.
Businesses and factories are running as normal, meaning there’s been no significant impacts on Myanmar’s economy, Aung Naing Oo said.
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