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Naypyitaw, Burma - United States Trade Representative Michael Froman led a signing ceremony today where he announced the first-ever solar energy project in Burma's Mandalay region. This project will increase Burma's capacity to provide stable energy to its people and attract investment that will help the country grow its economy.
The agreement, between U.S.-based ACO Investment Group and the Burma Ministry of Electric Power, paves the way for developing two 150 megawatt solar energy plants and is the result of extensive advocacy by senior officials in both the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce.
“Efforts like these support the ambitious definition of development that is at the heart of President Obama’s trade agenda,” said Ambassador Froman during his remarks at the ceremony. “By promoting trade and investment, we are unlocking even more opportunities for workers and businesses in both countries that promote not only higher incomes at home and around the world, but also driving sustainable development. We’re doing this because we know that trade works best when its benefits are broadly shared.”
Managed by ACO Investment Group’s portfolio company Convalt Energy, the project will bring much-needed power to Burma’s national grid. In addition to being 100% renewable, the project will complement Burma’s other renewable power sources. Burma depends heavily on hydropower, which decreases in output during the dry season, when solar sources are at their peak. When completed in 2016, the project is expected to account for 10–12 percent of the country’s power generation.
The project will also support jobs in Burma and the United States:
- ACO expects the project will create a total of 400 construction jobs in Myingyan and Meiktila districts, where the two 150MW plants are expected to be located, along with an additional 100 permanent jobs.
- The total value of the project is approximately $480 million, making it one of the largest investments by a U.S. company in the country since the easing of sanctions.
- U.S. export content will make up approximately 20 percent of the project value.
Communities in the Mandalay region will also benefit from the project’s investments in infrastructure and training. The project will boost the city’s manufacturing potential and resources and help provide power to develop the Myotha Industrial Zone, which is located within 15 miles of one of the power plants. Additionally, the project will improve local logistics infrastructure, especially for the solar industry, but also more generally through developing local roads.
Through the U.S. Responsible Investment Reporting Requirements, U.S. companies making significant investments in Burma must be fully transparent about payments made to the government and about how they respect human rights in their business operations.
As part of their responsible investment efforts, many U.S. companies are actively engaging local communities through corporate social responsibility programs. Those programs include, for example, making available millions of dollars in microfinance to rural citizens, funding programs for empowering women entrepreneurs, and providing clean water to those without access to potable water. Continuing this tradition, Convalt has pledged to train local employees and help build libraries at nearby schools.
The U.S. government is encouraging responsible investments like these to promote sustainable, inclusive growth in Burma and around the world.