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Getting plugged in

A planned power-sharing deal among the six members of the Greater Mekong Sub-region is intended to bring cheaper electricity to Cambodia, where the high cost of utilities remains one of the biggest obstacles to foreign investment, said Keo Rottanak, the director general of the state-run Electricite du Cambodge,

"We hope power trade in the GMS will boost the economy by lowering electricity prices," Rottanak told the Post on June 17.

The Kingdom's lack of a national power grid forces it to rely on small independent producers for much of its electricity, driving up costs, although Rottanak said prices should decrease after the completion of a national grid in 2012.

His comments came as energy officials from the six GMS members – Cambodia, China's Yunnan province, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – were meeting in the Lao capital, Vientiane, to discuss ways of moving the region closer to an integrated power sector.

The officials will discuss performance standards and transmission regulations for cross-border power trade, the first of four stages leading to an integrated power sector, said a statement issued by the Asian Development Bank, which is sponsoring the meeting.

The statement quoted ADB energy specialist and meeting co-chair Yongping Zhai as saying that national forecasts showed demand in the GMS was expected to grow between nine and 15 percent per year over the next decade.

"Regional cooperation in power trading offers efficient use of regional energy resources to meet this rising demand," Zhai said.

The statement said the first phase of the plan was scheduled for completion in 2010 and would seek to only promote country-to-country power transactions where excess capacity of existing cross-border transmission lines is used. This phase will initially involve lines connecting Laos and Thailand, Laos and Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia, it said.

The meeting was also due to launch a joint power-sector database for gathering and sharing information on the region's energy sector and supporting the move to develop a regional power market, the statement said.



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