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Backing sought for coal-fired power plant

A Thai energy firm has completed a study for a 1,800-megawatt coal power plant in Koh Kong province, and had asked for Prime Minister Hun Sen's support in furthering the project, government officials confirmed yesterday.

The plant would be the largest power generator in the energy-starved Kingdom.

Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding  would conduct an environmental impact assessment on the plant, Hun Sen's personal assistant, Eang Sophalleth, said  on Monday after the prime minister met Ratchaburi chief executive Nopal Milin Thang Goon at the Peace Palace.

The Thai company, in which a controlling stake is held by the state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, would sell power to Cambodia at “special tariff” rates, Eang Sophalleth said. The remaining power would be sold to Thailand.

Eang Sophalleth said Hun Sen welcomed the plan, but declined to give investment figures for the project.

A spokeswoman at Ratchaburi's Bangkok office also declined to comment on the project yesterday.

Cambodia's current power capacity was about 500 megawatts, the Ministry of Industry Mines and Energy's Toch Sovanna said in November, adding that by 2025 it would need 3,000 megawatts.

The high cost of energy was the biggest deterrent to industry investment in Cambodia, Chheng Kimlong, a business and economics lecturer at the University of Cambodia, said.

“It's about twice as expensive, or even higher, compared to neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam,” he said yesterday.

A coal-fired plant, however, was not a form of renewable energy and the government should carefully consider the potential environmental impact of the project, Chheng Kimlong said.

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