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Domestic energy boost reduces reliance on imports

Visitors look over Cambodia’s first operational coal-fired power plant at its launch in Preah Sihanouk province’s Stung Hav district in 2014.
Visitors look over Cambodia’s first operational coal-fired power plant at its launch in Preah Sihanouk province’s Stung Hav district in 2014. Heng Chivoan

Domestic energy boost reduces reliance on imports

Cambodia's domestic electricity production grew significantly in 2015, helping to reduce the Kingdom’s reliance on imported energy, the national electricity regulator said in its newly released annual report.

According to the Electricity Authority of Cambodia (EAC), the Kingdom’s energy generation increased by 46.79 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year, with local energy production accounting for nearly 75 percent of the country’s total supply.

Energy imports from Vietnam decreased by 5 percent, reducing its contribution to the Kingdom’s electricity supply to just under 20 percent, compared to 26 percent in 2014, the EAC report’s figures showed. Imports from Thailand fell by 41 percent last year, reducing its total energy contribution to 5.11 percent, compared to almost 11 percent in 2014.

Demand for electricity continues to grow. The total number of electricity consumers in the country increased by 30 percent compared to the previous year, reaching 1.8 million in 2015, as efforts to expand access to the grid increased electricity coverage to 68 percent of the country’s villages last year, the report added.

Hydropower provided 48 percent of the country’s energy and coal provided another 47 percent, according to the data. The figures differ slightly from those released last week by the Mines and Energy, which show coal electricity generation surpassed that of hydropower in 2015.

According to the EAC annual report, relative to Cambodia’s increased capacity, coal’s contribution to energy production went from 28 percent in 2014 to 47 percent in 2015. At the same time, hydropower’s share of generation went down from 60 percent to 48 percent in 2015, with Electricite du Cambodge (EdC) figures showing hydropower still being the largest source in the country.

Total installed energy capacity in Cambodia reached 1,657,274 kilowatts in 2015. Within that, coal showed the highest increased capacity by percentage, going from almost 18 percent of total capacity in 2014 to 24 percent of capacity in 2015, while hydropower’s installed capacity remained virtually unchanged.

Mey Kalyan, a senior adviser to the Supreme National Economic Council, said expanding the country’s industrial activity depended largely on the Kingdom’s efforts to continue developing its energy sector. However, he said there was a need “to not only to focus on energy availability, but also on affordability”.

Despite increased production, the report did not highlight any major price decreases, a fact that may be tied to Cambodia’s economy of scale when it comes to energy production.

“Overall the price is gradually facing a downwards trend, but Cambodia often faces economy of scale issues, so it cannot cut prices to levels of Thailand or Vietnam,” he said.

“Coal is a traditional approach to address energy needs and in the Cambodian context, it can provide energy relatively quickly,” he added. “However, we also need more renewable energy, but it needs to be done gradually because shifting to renewables all at once is not realistic to fulfil the country’s energy demand.”

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