Improving Hydropower Outcomes Through System-Scale Planning: An Example from Myanmar

This report examines hydropower development in Myanmar to explore a fundamental challenge: how can governments make informed decisions about infrastructure development that will deliver the broadest range of benefits to their people over the long run? Hydropower provides a clear example of this challenge. For many countries, hydropower is a strategic resource that could increase energy supply at low costs and make important contributions to water resources management and development objectives (potential “co-benefits” of hydropower development and management). However, current approaches to hydropower development often fail to achieve this potential for broad benefits and incur high environmental and social costs. Decisions are often made at the scale of individual projects without a comprehensive understanding of how these projects fit within the larger context of both infrastructure systems and social and environmental resources. Short-term and project-focused decisions are not likely to produce hydropower systems that can fulfill their potential to achieve broad benefits and balanced development. This is because they will be systems in name only. In reality, they are groups of individual projects that are not well coordinated, miss opportunities for more optimal designs, and often cause high social and environmental costs—contributing to conflict and uncertainty for future investment. Most governments do not have a process in place to plan true systems and to strategically select projects that are in the best public interest. We explore two broad hypotheses. First, hydropower planning at a system scale can help governments, developers and other stakeholders find better-balanced solutions with lower impacts and conflicts. Second, countries can adopt system-scale approaches in ways that avoid creating unacceptable burdens or delays. In summary, we propose that a systematic and comprehensive approach to hydropower planning and system design can help countries deliver better development outcomes for their people. We tested these hypotheses by developing an illustrative framework for hydropower planning and investment in Myanmar.

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Additional Info

Field Value
Document type Reports, journal articles, and research papers (including theses and dissertations)
Language of document
  • English
Geographic area (spatial range)
  • Myanmar
Copyright Yes
Access and use constraints

© 2016. The Nature Conservancy, WWF, and the University of Manchester. Improving hydropower outcomes through system-scale planning: an example from Myanmar. Prepared for the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development. 2016. Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Version / Edition 1
License CC-BY-3.0-IGO
Date uploaded March 30, 2017, 08:47 (UTC)
Date modified March 30, 2017, 09:08 (UTC)