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Electricity $4.4B closer to sufficiency

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An electricity box in Koh Kong province in early 2013. Heng Chivoan

Electricity $4.4B closer to sufficiency

Over $3.2 billion was invested last year into increasing domestic electricity production, with an additional $1.2 billion sunk into infrastructure, according to the national electricity regulator.

The Kingdom’s energy generation in 2016 peaked at 1.6 billion kilowatt-hours, with the average cost per scaling up one megawatt of power approximately billed at $2 million worth of investment, the Electricity Authority of Cambodia (EAC) said in its 2016 annual report.

The report did not break down the public and private sector investment into the $3.2 billion spent in production. However, it said of the $1.2 billion worth of infrastructure spending, $394 million came from government coffers and $776 million from the private sector. An additional unmarked investment of $834 million was put in, adding 1,525 kilometres of transmission lines and 25 substations.

Ty Norin, chairman of the EAC, said in speech accompanying the annual report that the expected operational capacity of the third 135-megawatt coal-fired plant by Cambodia International Investment Development Group in the coastal province of Preah Sihanouk, scheduled for sometime this year, would further reduce energy imports by 20 percent.

“This is the first of many years that EAC reduced the cost of electricity, following the government’s policy,” he said. “However the capacity of electricity distribution is still limited and it is not smooth, and lacks quality and supply.”

He added that over the last 15 years the country has made great strides in developing its domestic production amid surging consumption, increasing electricity generation by an average of 20 percent a year and closing the supply gap. The report noted that domestic production this year was expected to cover 80 percent of demand.

Norin added that despite this increase, consumers were far from content with prices with some being forced to pay double due to poor measurement technology.

“Consumers are not confident with how we measure electricity, which sometimes causes them to pay more than they should,” he said, adding that the EAC had hired a team to monitor electricity transactions.

Ngeth Chou, a senior consultant for Emerging Markets Consulting, said that many challenges still remained for providing consistent and nationwide supply, and that Cambodia was still far behind regional peers.

“The supply of electricity still does not cover the whole country, or even in the cities,” he said. “The accessibility to electricity is not smooth and prices are too high.”

“The government should look into investing into solar power as it does not impact the environment like coal and hydropower projects do,” he said, adding that Cambodia was currently adopting technology that many countries had given up.

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