The recent power shortages have left residents of Phnom Penh out in the heat and dark, but amidst their mounting frustration, state-owned energy supplier Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) has announced it will be purchasing more power from Thailand to address the shortfall.
Keo Rattanak, director-general of the EDC, said in a company notice that the EDC had already purchased an additional 15 megawatts (MW) that would go toward addressing the power cuts along National Road 4.
He added that in the next two to three days, the company would purchase an additional 10 MW and a further 10 MW before the Khmer New Year holidays in April.
Energy production hours at the Kamchay and Kirirom dams would also be increased from six to 11 hours, said Rattanak, adding that the increased hours were possible through “efficient water-saving methods”.
“Although this measure will not solve 100 per cent of the problem, it still can help to reduce the cut-off hours by a big amount until June when everything is going to be OK,” Rattanak said.
In June, a new coal-fired power plant and hydropower dam in Preah Sihanouk province will also come online, he added.
During the hottest months, Phnom Penh requires upwards of 400 MW of electricity per day, a demand that increases by 15 to 20 per cent each year.
The rapidly increasing demand has left the EDC scrambling to increase supply amidst growing public frustration.
But experts say buying energy from without is only a stopgap solution to Cambodia’s woes.
Ty Thany, executive director at the Electricity Authority of Cambodia, said the measure could lead to higher energy prices since “Thailand and Vietnam, they sell us power, but want to sell it at a high price.”
San Vibol, an energy researcher at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, feels the government should instead develop an energy policy encouraging efficiency and renewability.
Just by developing simple practices like ensuring billboards are turned off after midnight and encouraging the use of energy-efficient lights and machinery, Vibol argues, up to 20 per cent of current energy expenditure could be saved.
“The government wants to build more dams, but I think this is not the solution,” he said. “Other energy sources like biogas and solar power are more suited to Cambodia.”