US business plans solar in Myanmar

WASHINGTON - US investors will help finance a US$480 million (15.3 billion baht) solar power project in Myanmar's northeastern Mandalay region, which will ultimately provide up to 12% of the country's power generation, the US Trade Representative and an investment manager said on Thursday.

Under an agreement between US-based ACO Investment Group and the Ministry of Electric Power, two 150-megawatt solar plants are due to be built by 2016, most likely in the Myingyan and Meiktila districts.

ACO Investment managing director Hari Achuthan said the group had secured interest from institutional investors in the equity component of the deal, worth about $150 million. It was in talks with development finance institutions about debt to cover the balance, he told reporters.

ACO Investment expected the project to create 400 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs at the plants, one of which would help provide power to develop the Myotha Industrial Zone.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman said the project marked one of the biggest US investments in the country, which have already totalled more than $600 million since sanctions were lifted.

The United States has gradually lifted sanctions to encourage political and economic reforms since the military government that ran Myanmar for five decades stepped aside in 2011.

Mr Froman said inverters, used to convert the current from solar panels into a current that can be fed into an electrical grid, and some solar panels used in the project will be made in the US.

Companies have not yet been chosen for the work, Mr Achuthan said.

The US also signed an agreement to work with Myanmar to strengthen labour rights and improve labour conditions.

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