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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Confusion surrounds plans for 700MW coal power plant

Confusion surrounds plans for 700MW coal power plant

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Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem denies plans for Sihanoukville station despite Malaysian firm’s announcement to Kuala Lumpur stock exchange

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Charcoal is a popular form of fuel in Cambodia, but there are not yet any coal power plants in the Kingdom. As many as three such coal facilities appear to be planned for Sihanoukville.

Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem has denied there are plans to build a 700-megawatt coal power plant in Sihanoukville, despite confirmation from another ministry officials as well as a statement to the stock exchange in Kuala Lumpur that Malaysian firm Leader Universal Holdings Berhad has been in talks to invest and build in the project.

In a statement to Bursa Malaysia on June 11, the company - which wholly owns subsidiary Leader (Cambodia) Ltd - said it had been in talks with the ministry regarding a joint-venture agreement with Cambodia International Investment Development Group Co Ltd (CIIDG) to build a number of coal power stations.

This included a previously agreed 200MW coal power station that would now be split into two 100MW facilities which look set to be the first coal power plants in Cambodia.

"The JV agreement also sets out the agreement reached between the parties [Leader, CIIDG and the Ministry of Mines and Energy] in respect of the planning and development of a future 700MW coal-fired power generation facility in Sihanoukville, Cambodia," said the Leader statement.

If we rely on our own power plants,

we will be much

better off.

However, Suy Sem and a number of other government officials have denied existence of any such project.

"I am not really aware of this project," Suy Sem told the Post before hanging up the telephone.

Governor of Preah Sihanouk province Spoang Sarath said he was also unaware of such a project, although he confirmed that two 100MW coal power stations would be built, adding that a larger-capacity power station would require undergoing an environmental pre-planning process.

"We are short of electricity, but we need to consider the impact on the environment as well," he said.

Victor Jona, deputy director of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, also denied knowledge of plans to build the 700MW power station, although he estimated such a project would require an investment of about US$1 billion. Ministry of Mines and Energy Secretary of State Ith Praing also said he knew nothing of the project.

But Heng Sun Leng, director of the Energy Department at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, did confirm plans for a 700MW coal power plant in Sihanoukville but declined to name the company responsible, saying there was no confirmed foreign involvement so far.

"The 700MW [power station] is not with a Malaysian company; it is from a local company that is seeking a partner. We don't know which company will be the partner - we are studying that," he said.

According to the statement by Leader, it is already in a joint-venture agreement with CIIDG, called Cambodian Energy Limited, which has already won a concession to build one 100MW coal power station in Sihanoukville after plans to build a 200MW facility were split into two separate projects.

Another 100MW will be built by Power Synergy Corporation, a 50-50 joint-venture between Leader and MKCSS Holdings, a Cambodian company, the statement added.

Uk Bunseng, a MKCSS Holdings manager, declined to comment Sunday.

Company dispute

Heng Sun Leng said without elaborating further that the change had been the result of a company dispute, and that the original contract with Electricite du Cambodge had been cancelled.

New contracts for both power stations would have to be signed, most likely in October or November, he said.

Heng Sun Leng said both projects would be completed by 2012, adding that the 700MW power station would not be completed until after 2015. A pre-feasibility study is currently being conducted, he added.

"If we rely on our own power plants, we will be much better off than relying on imports [of energy]," he said, adding that the Cambodian government plans to build a national grid.

Cambodia would utilise "clean coal technology",  which has little environmental impact and would remain within World Bank and ministry standards, he said.

The first two 100MW coal power stations would service Sihanouk, Kampot, Kampong Speu and Phnom Penh provinces, said Heng Sun Leng.

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