Photo by Katie Schirmer.

The power of power in Myanmar

Beyond 100 Projects for Peace, students research renewable energy in Myanmar and bring findings to campus

By Lacey Jacoby /// Features Editor

In addition to undertaking a self-designed project funded by 100 Projects for Peace, Sam Shugart (’15), Nway Khine (’15), Katie Schirmer (’17) and Ira Yeap (’14) also conducted research on renewable energy in Myanmar this summer.

Shugart explained that “Myanmar doesn’t really have an electrical grid. About 30 percent of the population has main grid access, and the other 70 percent either has generators off-grid or mostly no electricity access.”

With this underdeveloped electricity sector, and having only recently opened up, Myanmar is attracting major developmental organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank. Renewable energy presents its own challenges to these groups due to the high expense and technical competence required.

This combination provided a unique location for Shugart, Khine, Schirmer and Yeap to study renewable energy. In particular, they had direct access to major political and financial stakeholders.Through a connection at the president’s office in Myanmar, the students attended the Myanmar Green Energy Summit, where they interviewed many non-governmental organizations and major multinational corporations.

A new approach that Shugart finds particularly promising is the use of small power producers. These individuals/joint ventures own and operate a small power source (such as a microhydro system or a set of solar panels) to provide power to a small community. This can help provide power in the short-term to communities that may otherwise have to wait decades to connect to the main grid.

Next on the group’s agenda is to finish compiling their findings into a three to four page policy recommendation, which they hope to publish in a variety of sources. They also hope to use their experience to encourage other students to take advantage of the college’s resources.

“I feel like a lot of people are really smart [at LC] and have all these great ideas, but they keep it constrained to the classroom,” Shugart said. “You can take what you learn in the classroom, and if you’re really persistent and enthusiastic, actually apply that, and people will be really interested to hear what you have to say.”

Shugart has a few other creative ideas for bringing his experiences back to campus, too.

“A friend of mine and I were thinking we could just build a microhydro system at LC for fun, and share that with people,” Shugart said.

Where to put it? Easy. “Just stick it in the Willamette.”

To learn more about the group’s research and the Green Fee, attend their presentation on Monday, Nov. 17 at 5 p.m. in Stamm.

Photo by Katie Schirmer.
Photo by Katie Schirmer.

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