Yangon is introducing smart meters to control the electricity supply, monitor usage and bill customers in a single automated system. If a pilot project is successful, the potential for further development could be huge, says the entrepreneur spearheading the technology.
"It's a step toward making Yangon a smart city and improving and extending e-government throughout Myanmar," says Myo Aung, who describes the project as a collaborative effort with the country's engineering community.
Automated metering reduces transmission waste and optimises maintenance, making the whole system more efficient and streamlined, he told Asia Focus.
"It eliminates human error and substantially lessens the opportunities for corruption," he added. In the long run, having meters throughout Myanmar's largest city will help promote development, reduce administrative costs and improve services to consumers and businesses.
At present the project is being piloted in two townships within the municipality, but Yangon authorities are impressed by the initial results and the savings from cutting transmission loses.
"We want to roll out these smart meters throughout the rest of the Yangon area as soon as possible," the Chief Minister of Yangon region, Phyo Min Thein, told Asia Focus. Unfortunately, he said, the national energy ministry has been stalling on the city's request for permission to do so.
Digital meters with advanced measuring infrastructure (AMI) have been now been introduced Daw Bone and Pabedan townships by EVER Company. All power passes through these meters, is measured and the bills prepared and distributed. Payment is through a mobile phone application called MeBill. Non-payment is also easy to detect: defaulters will have their supply automatically cut if they fail to pay within five days of receiving the bill, in line with government regulations.
The system was developed, according to Myo Aung, because of a desire to see Myanmar develop and prosper. He insists his role is as an engineering developer, hoping to inspire the next generation, and contribute to the national self-reliance.
"The technology is Myanmar," he insists. "Although it's originally Israeli technology -- it's the best in the world -- we have adapted it to Myanmar; everything uses the Myanmar language."
EVER has given the AMI to the government totally free of charge. "Myanmar must own its technology. … The system is potentially open to security breaches and hacking, so it must be under government control," he said.
Yangon, and Myanmar as a whole, are currently facing a severe power crisis. In the middle of the hot season, power outages have increased significantly, with hours-long blackouts forcing many customers to rely on their own generators. However, Phyo Min Thein said he was optimistic the power supply would improve before the next peak season.
Wastage and transmission problems are endemic in Myanmar. In 2014, the country's estimated power loss was 20.5%, compared with less than 7% in Thailand, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). In the region, only Cambodia has a higher loss rate but its government is taking enormous strides to rectify that.
"But in Myanmar there is no concerted effort to combat this problem," said Myo. "If anything, the authorities are being obstructionist."
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