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The growing need for energy is forcing countries around the world to find new ways to meet demand, and free-flowing rivers, with their promise of cost-competitive, low-carbon power, often top the list for development. Some estimates show that the world is poised to nearly double hydropower capacity by 2040, building as many hydropower dams in the next 25 years as were built in the previous century. But hydropower poses a great challenge for many countries: while it is often a cornerstone of plans to generate economic growth and reduce poverty, it can have significant social and environmental impacts.
This is where Myanmar finds itself. Hydropower has the potential to transform Myanmar’s future: in a country where only one-third of the people have access to electricity, building up infrastructure is an imperative. But a thoughtful approach to hydropower planning can generate even greater returns in the form of preserved fish harvests, communities and commercial navigation routes.
The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with WWF and the University of Manchester, demonstrated a system-scale planning framework that was applied in Myanmar and could be replicated worldwide, called Hydropower by Design, which seeks to compare alternative development scenarios upfront and identify those scenarios that can most effectively balance energy development with the protection of other social and environmental resources for better hydropower planning. TNC’s Jeff Opperman, Director and Lead Scientist of the Great Rivers Program discussed the Hydropower by Design approach as it was applied in Myanmar as well as the results and lessons learned from that effort. In addition, Jorge Gastelumendi, Policy Innovation Lead at TNC, discussed the opportunity for innovative financial mechanisms that have the potential to enable and encourage this better, system-scale planning approach for hydropower. The Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia Program Director Richard Cronin moderated and provided discussion on the opportunities and challenges in applying the Hydropower by Design approach to a transnational river like the Mekong.
WHAT: A discussion on Myanmar’s energy and hydropower development opportunities, with a focus on TNC’s recent report.
Richard Cronin (moderator), Director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Stimson Center
Jeff Opperman, Director and Lead Scientist, Great Rivers Program, The Nature Conservancy
Jorge Gastelumendi, Policy Innovation Lead, The Nature Conservancy