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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Local energy supply powers up

Local energy supply powers up

130208 10a
Dominique Catry, group managing director of Comin Asia, speaks to the Post in Phnom Penh earlier this week. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

Comin Asia offers a broad range of engineering services across a number of sectors, including infrastructure, industry and construction.

Having assisted in some of Cambodia’s biggest infrastructure projects, such as Phnom Penh International Airport, the Kampot power plant and the Vattanac Tower, Comin employs over 1,100 people across Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Comin was established in Cambodia in 1960.

The Post’s Daniel de Carteret talked to Comin Asia’s managing director, Dominique Catry, about the future of Cambodia’s power supplies.

Infrastructure is much more than just a business venture because it supports some of society’s basic needs. What are some infrastructure-requirement opportunities here?

We are most active in power. Power is an area where there has been tremendous progress in the past, but there is still a lot to do in this sector. We are building a sub-station for a high voltage transmission line. This is designed to bring power to remote parts of Cambodia.

It is amazing the development that has taken place in Cambodia over the past 20 years. In 1992 we only had a few hours of electricity in Phnom Penh each day. We had a generator on the roof of our villa because of this. Now there is only the occasional blackout and they don’t last long. It is much more reliable today. But there is still a lot to do in remote areas, obviously.

What areopportunities for renewable energy in Cambodia?

There is potential for renewable energy in off-grid systems. Solar is definitely where there is the greatest potential because, obviously, the source is everywhere. There are already a few large hydro projects, handled by Chinese investors at the moment. There is also potential in bio-mass. This is almost untapped now, so again there is a lot of opportunity here. I am sure that in the years to come there will be many projects in this sector, small-size and off-grid or scattered power generation facilities.

How will power demands keep pace with Cambodia’s growth?

In the past 15 years, average growth in the power sector has been about 17 per cent per year, and of course there are many different scenarios, but the prediction puts future growth at 11 to 12 per cent per year over the next 10 to 20 years. There are ongoing projects that have been designed to match demand. So in the medium term there are no concerns, and there are still major projects for investment.

Besides this, there may also be the further exchange of energy between the countries of the Greater Mekong sub-region. Firstly, they don’t always have peak consumption at the same time, and there is a lot of hydropower potential still available in Laos that neighbouring countries could enjoy. There is also potential in Cambodia that other countries could benefit from.

How do you balance the damage to the environment these energy projects cause with the benefits the power will bring?

I believe there are certain precautions to be taken when developing a hydropower plant. If the environmental assessment is done properly it can certainly mitigate the negative environmental impact. Of course, this comes at a cost that can make hydropower less competitive, but I think that with certain precautions we can avoid damaging the environment.

Is it important to the company to put back in to the development of a country?

As far as I am concerned, it was a large part of my motivation to try to give back to the country as I have been benefitted. But I don’t want to just talk about myself – the investors we have worked for, we have been really pleased that we have participated in these projects because they were really recycling wealth that may have accumulated over the years back into the country. The investments they made, especially in power generation, were not so profitable for those investors, but it was a way to contribute to development.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel de Carteret at daniel.decarteret@phnompenhpost.com

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