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Blog: Co-developing policy advice for advancing energy efficiency in Myanmar

9 October 2019

A blog by Jennifer Cronin and Dr Gabrial Anandarajah from the UCL Energy Institute

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Energy demand in developing countries is increasing, driven by growing populations, economic development and widening access to electricity networks, a trend that is expected to accelerate over the next few years. In order to minimise negative environmental impacts and ensure energy security, it is therefore vital that this demand is met in a sustainable way.

Recent global initiatives recognise energy efficiency as a key part of this picture: for instance, The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 aims to ensure affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. This SDG specifically sets the target to double the rate of energy efficiency improvement by 2030. Energy efficiency measures can enable households, businesses and industries to lower their energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions. In developing countries which aim to provide electricity to millions more residents in the coming years, lowering the rate at which generation capacity needs to increase makes the whole system more manageable. Rolling out measures such as energy auditing, building insulation and appliance labelling schemes can also bring wider benefits such as job creation.

But more efficient appliances are often more expensive. How can governments of developing countries encourage households, which are often low-income, to make these investments?

In 2013–2015, I led a team of researchers from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to consider this. The MECON project looked at effective energy efficiency policy implementation targeting “new Modern Energy CONsumers” in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. There is clearly a huge potential for improving energy efficiency in Myanmar and consequently obvious benefits for individuals and the country as a whole. However, the project showed there are several barriers to making it happen within the policy domain; including a lack of awareness of the issues, a lack of targets, insufficient regulation and mandatory minimum energy performance standards, and little economic incentives for consumers.

Recognising the critical importance of this topic, the Myanmar government set up a department in the Ministry of Industry in 2014, responsible for Energy Efficiency and Conservation. They have developed efficiency targets for each economic sector, set up an awareness-raising programme and are currently working on turning their strategy for energy efficiency and conservation into law. To address the same issues across the entire country, they are employing energy managers in a range of businesses and public sector organisations.

Although there is political receptiveness to increase action on energy policy, significant energy-related challenges remain in terms of consumer behaviour and knowledge, cost benefit and incentives for purchases, and low quality energy supply, which are specific to the residential sector.

In order to investigate and ultimately address some of these challenges to aid policymakers, my fellow researcher Jen Cronin and I, based at the UCL Energy Institute, organised a stakeholder engagement workshop with the Federation of Myanmar Engineering Societies (Fed.MES) in Nay Pyi Daw, Myanmar. We brought together participants from across the civil service, academia, the private sector, international development organisations, and the Fed.MES to discuss findings from the MECON project, academic literature and their own experience. After working with colleagues from Fed.MES to formulate a set of policy recommendations based on the outcomes of those discussions, we presented these recommendations to senior policy makers at the Ministry of Industry. Based on further debates on the requirements for more in-depth work, we created a comprehensive, co-designed policy brief for the Ministry with four key areas for intervention to reduce the energy efficiency gap in the residential sector: Visit the UCL Public Policy blog to read the full article and find out more.