US conglomerate, General Electric (GE) and the Electricité du Cambodge (EdC) yesterday signed an agreement, which is being touted as the beginning of better days for the Kingdom’s unreliable power grid.
US Ambassador William Todd oversaw the signing of the deal, which will see GE provide advisory and research to the EdC for five years at estimated cost of $10 million.
“We are looking at an agreement today to improve the electricity grid in Cambodia and I think the EdC deserves a lot of credit in that regard,” Todd said.
“Two or three years ago, 25 per cent of Cambodia was on the grid. Today, that number is just under 50 per cent. And hopefully, through the study and the improvements and the efficiencies that GE is going to do, that number will be greater in the very near future.”
As part of the agreement, GE will undertake a study of the Kingdom’s current power grid, analysing its performance and issues. The study is expected to take up to eight months to complete.
GE will additionally provide software maintenance services to the EdC for a period of five years.
“It [the GE deal] translates into improving the daily lives of the average Cambodian . . .The second is that when people look at business in Cambodia, the challenges are in energy. And frankly, there is not enough energy in Cambodia to bring in a number of new factories or business,” Todd said.
GE’s managing director for the India region, Ravi Segal said the US firm would send over a team to train EdC workers in the hope that the feasibility study’s findings can be appropriately implemented.
“Along with the study, we will bring in the best practices from across the globe and also bring the talent here so that EdC can visualise future practices and look at the possible conditions or changes that are likely to happen in the system,” he said.
EdC director general Keo Rattanak admitted the national electricity provider faced challenges in both the supply and the reliability of power.
“The issue for us is stability and reliability of the power grid. And I am equally aware that there are many challenges, in particular on how to reduce the tariff gap in rural areas,” Rattanak said.
On the issue of reducing energy prices, Rattanak said that at least Cambodia wasn’t increasing electricity prices like Thailand and Vietnam.
“Electricity tariffs in Cambodia are reducing against the trends of our neighbouring countries, which are increasing their tariffs on a yearly basis,” he said.