Rugged northeastern Myanmar is home to the Lahu, Shan, Akha, Palaung and various other ethnic groups. With few paved roads and only a small percentage of the Shan State's population connected to the electrical grid, infrastructure serving the locals is still very limited.
Approximately 10 years ago, traders from neighboring China capitalized on the lack of access to electricity by introducing microhydro generators. Roughly the size of a 20- liter container, the Chinese-made turbines typically generate between 1-3 kilowatts with larger models producing 5 kw or more. While energy within this range is not enough to power larger appliances (e.g., refrigerators, washing machines), a few light bulbs and very small household appliances such as fans, televisions and radios can be operated.