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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Dark days for electricity users

Dark days for electricity users

Every evening, somewhere in Phnom Penh, someone is dining in darkness. All over

the city, mid-meal power cuts have become a regular occurrence, as the state

electricity company, Electricité du Cambodge, (EDC) struggles to keep up with

demand.

This month, EDC has cut electricity in turn to every district in

Phnom Penh, with the exception of special places such as hospitals, radio and

television stations, and the Council of Ministers.

The blackouts are bad

for business, according to many shop owners, as no one can browse for books or

read a menu in the dark.

Chan Hulz, 25, an employee at Khmer Borane Café

Restaurant on Sisowath Quay near the Royal Palace, said the cuts happened two or

three times a day in his area, and each time the power is off for two to four

hours.

Hulz said it is lucky for him that his restaurant has a reserve

generator. "But I pity those shops that have no generator. When the restaurant

or shop has no light, no customers will come in," he said.

Even with the

generator, Hulz only has enough power to run the lights, not the

refrigerator.

A 27-year-old Internet-Email shop owner near the Russian

Market in Sangkat Boeung Keng Kang 3, Khan Chamkarmon, said she lost a lot of

customers when the electricity cut because she did not have her own

generator.

A 45-year-old women living in the same area said she would

like the government to solve the problem as soon as possible because she could

not sleep when the electricity cut. Her tiny house has no windows, so with the

door shut for security and no fan working it is unbearably hot.

Tha Ney,

28, an employee for a restaurant in Sangkat Chey Chumnas, Khan Daun Penh, said,

"Even though my shop has a generator, it is not as comfortable as using the

state electricity - it is noisy and smoky and that affects the guests," He said

his restaurant was short on space and he had to put the generator inside the

room.

A senior Electricity Transmission and Distribution official at EDC,

who asked not to be named, said the cuts resulted from increased electricity use

in the city - about a 15 percent rise in the last year.

Another EDC

official, who also declined to be identified, said that this increase had

happened since the price of gasoline got higher. He said when the price of fuel

was cheap, most restaurants and hotels used their own generators. Now, with

rising fuel prices, many had turned to the cheaper state

electricity.

Currently, EDC can supply an average of 110 megawatts of

electricity, while the demand of people in Phnom Penh at the present is 130MW.

And in the coming hot season months, the demand will increase to 140MW, as

people run fans and air conditioning, the first official said.

He said

things would improve slightly in February after a 10MW machine in the

Japanese-supported fifth electricity factory was repaired, and a new 10MW power

station was established.

It was hoped that by the end of June, Phnom Penh

residents will have enough electricity and the power cuts will sto.

The

Khmer Electricity Power Station, which now produces 30MW, plans to produce 45MW

by June, and the construction of another new power station, also capable of

producing 45MW, is scheduled to be completed by June, said the

official.

EDC says it is doing its best to minimize the power cuts. "Now

we even use small generators combined with the big ones to supply electricity to

the residents," the official said.

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