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Covid delays WtE power plant

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Phnom Penh reportedly produced an average of 3,000-3,500 tonnes of rubbish per day last year, of which 30-35 per cent could have been incinerated for electricity, according to a senior energy official. Heng Chivoan

Covid delays WtE power plant

The prolongation of the Covid-19 outbreak has led to a delay in a feasibility study of building a waste-to-energy (WtE) plant with at least 50MW of total electricity generating capacity near Phnom Penh, according to Ministry of Mines and Energy spokesman Victor Jona.

Early last year, the ministry said an inter-ministerial working group was looking for partners to invest in the project, which would not only generate electricity for consumption, but also reduce the amount of rubbish going into the capital’s landfills.

Jona told The Post on March 9 that progress on the project is trailing behind last year’s pace, with no significant developments reported.

He stressed that the ministry had not abandoned the project, but had kept it on the back burner during the Covid-19 pandemic and the stringent global travel restrictions that followed soon after.

A project of this sort requires international specialists, Jona said, pointing out that the restrictions obstruct technicians from making their way into the Kingdom.

“We haven’t taken any major steps toward the construction of the WtE plant, but the government’s resolve to develop it remains all the same,” he said.

A recent Economic and Financial Policy Committee meeting tentatively set the site for the project in “the Tuol Prich area of Kampong Speu” without identifying the district it falls under, Jona said, adding that the Ministry of Economy and Finance would make the final call on the location.

There are two villages named “Tuol Prich” in Kampong speu – one in Kong Pisei district’s Maha Russey commune and another in Samrong Tong district’s Trapaing Kong commune further to the northwest.

Jona added that while many companies have looked into investing in WtE plants in the Kingdom, their plans are invariably cast aside when they find out that the cost of electricity produced from these projects is too high for the state to buy and feed into the national grid system.

Cambodia’s projected peak electricity demand in 2020 is 1,700-1,800MW, down from 1,900-2,000MW in 2019, he said. That range could drop to 1,600-1,700MW in 2021 as demand for energy in the tourism industry logs a sharp drop.

He estimated that Phnom Penh produced an average of 3,000-3,500 tonnes of rubbish per day last year, of which 30-35 per cent could have been incinerated for electricity.

Neam Kopy, the CEO of environmental consulting firm CES Co Ltd (Cambodia Environment Services), told The Post last year that WtE processes not only improve waste management, but curtail the use of coal or fossil fuels which are damaging to the environment. “We always push for and encourage the recycling of discarded products.”

According to Jona, the Kingdom’s total electricity capacity currently stands at about 3,000MW.

He said most of its energy is generated through coal-fired plants, hydropower dams, heavy fuel oil and solar farms, accounting for 37-38 per cent, 35 per cent, over 10 per cent and three per cent of power production, respectively.

Some 15 per cent of electricity demand is met by imports from neighbouring countries, he added.

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