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Kingdom more energy independent

Workers stand in front of a coal-fired power plant in Preah Sihanouk province during its launch in 2014.
Workers stand in front of a coal-fired power plant in Preah Sihanouk province during its launch in 2014. Heng Chivoan

Kingdom more energy independent

The introduction of two new power plants in the country last year saw Cambodia inch towards self-sufficiency in its electricity supply even as energy consumption grew 14 percent, the Mines and Energy Ministry said yesterday.

The Kingdom consumed 8.15 billion kilowatt hours of electricity over the course of 2017, with 20 percent imported from Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, said ministry spokesman Victor Jona.

By comparison, 2016 saw 7.17 billion kilowatt hours consumed, with 22 percent of it imported. The figures amount to a 14 percent rise in consumption and a 1 billion kilowatt hour increase in local generation.

Jona said the greater production was driven by the opening of a 135-megawatt coal power plant in Preah Sihanouk province as part of a complex of generators with a previous capacity of 270 megawatts, and which is slated to eventually be expanded to 700 megawatts.

The Preah Sihanouk plant, a joint venture project between Cambodia International Investment Development Group and Chinese-based Erdos Hongjun Electric Power Co, was first fired up in late 2014.

Meanwhile, the massive and controversial Lower Sesan II Hydropower Dam began a test run with two of its eight turbines by the end of 2017 and should be fully operational by October, providing a total 400 megawatts of capacity, Jona said.

Overall electricity production was projected to increase by another 15 percent by the end of 2018, he said. “Everything has been growing in line with our plans.”

The Electricity Authority of Cambodia (EAC) last year supplied electricity to about 14,000 villages, or 81 percent of all villages in Cambodia, Jona added. About 3.3 million households – or 68.5 percent of all homes – were provided with some form of electricity.

In 2018, the EAC plans to connect another 5 percent of villages and 4 percent of households, he said.

“Our target is to expand the national grid to all 25 provinces,” he said, noting that the grid presently only reached 19 provinces.

Ngeth Chou, a senior consultant for Emerging Markets Consulting, said that while the ministry’s plans to increase energy production should result in reduced prices, the long-term impact on the environment was also important for the government to consider.

“We see Cambodia is growing its electrical supply in order to reduce high prices, but this is not sustainable, because our power supply projects are dependent on coal and hydropower, which have serious negative impacts on the environment,” he said.

“The government should concern itself with the impact of its projects, and should promote investment in sustainable sources of power like solar energy,” he added.

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