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Royal Group submits plan for coal-fired plant

New details have emerged on Royal Group’s ambitions to expand its energy portfolio after a government official clarified that Cambodia’s biggest conglomerate is seeking to develop its own coal-fired power plant, rather than finance an existing one.

Tun Lean, a spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) and undersecretary of state for the Electricity Authority of Cambodia (EAC), said yesterday that the ministry was reviewing a feasibility study for the proposed power station submitted by the Royal Group earlier this year.

He clarified that the project was not linked to a 700-megawatt coal-fired plant currently being developed by a joint venture between Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin’s Cambodia International Investment Development Group (CIIDG) and the Chinese-based Erdos Hongjun Electric Power Co – although the plant will also be based in the Stung Hav district of Preah Sihanouk province.

According to Lean, the Royal Group was first authorised to commission a feasibility study for its coal-fired power station in 2012, two years before the CIIDG project’s first 135-megawatt unit came online.

“The feasibility study prepared by Royal Group is under examination in MME,” he wrote in an email. “The investment decision for this 400 to 500-megawatt [plant] will be taken depending on the power demand of Cambodia.”

Lean said that the ministry first received the feasibility study in June of this year, and that while government officials were still looking over it, they had yet to come to agreement on technical aspects of the plan.

“We still need to agree on the study, but we have asked for a review by technicians,” he said. “This is the first step and we need to look at machinery and location.”

He added that if approved, “Royal Group’s project is expected to operate after [the] year 2020,” though he was unable to give an estimated cost for its development.

Royal Group chairman Kith Meng could not be reached for comment yesterday about the company’s proposed thermal power station, while numerous calls to company representatives went unanswered.

However, documents show that the conglomerate has been interested in the project as far back as 2007, when it commissioned a feasibility study for a 500-megawatt coal-fired plant.

Werawat Niempasuk, business development manager for Owl Energy Ltd, the Thai-based energy consultancy firm that conducted the feasibility study, said he was not aware of the details of the 2007 study and that the company was not involved in the Royal Group’s recent application.

He said, however, that generally feasibility studies involve calculating an estimated cost for development and include an environmental impact assessment.

If realised, the Royal Group’s coal-fired plant would be the third such power station to be built in Stung Hav district.

The first was a 100-megawatt plant developed by Cambodia Energy Ltd, a local subsidiary of Malaysia’s Leader Universal Ltd, and launched in February 2014. The adjacent CIIDG power station came online in November 2014, and currently operates at 270-megawatt capacity – about a third of its planned total.

Additional reporting by Cheng Sokhorng

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