Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen inaugurated the new 246-megawatt Stung Tatai hydropower plant in Koh Kong yesterday, saying that the dam will add to locally generated power and help bring down the cost of electricity.
Built by the China National Heavy Machinery Corporation for $540 million, the new hydropower dam is expected to increase supply to Koh Kong, Phnom Penh and adjoining provinces.
Hun Sen said that given the increasing power needs of the country, both for commercial and consumer use, it was important for the state to provide affordable electricity.
“When state-run power supply cannot reach a place, the private sector will supply it and people will pay any price for it, like 3000 riel, 2500 riel [per unit],” Hun Sen said. “If not, people will use their own generators, which will also consume a lot of petroleum.”
The prime minister said his government was seeking additional funds to expand their network, which currently covers 55 per cent of the country, as well as cooperate with private suppliers to use their networks for transmission.
“Only producing is not enough. We need to expand the distribution network, otherwise it is like making a car without a road to drive on,” he added.
According to the latest report from the Electricity Authority of Cambodia, the country had 4,860 million kilowatt hours of energy available to it in 2014, of which close to 40 per cent was imported from Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, with a majority of it coming from Vietnam.
Cambodia’s heavy reliance on outside energy sources was illustrated last month after Phnom Penh and other provinces faced an hour-long blackout, due to an electrical fault in the supply from Vietnam.
Tun Lean, spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said that as the Kingdom increases its local power generation, imports from neighbouring countries will start to decline.
“Exactly it will happen during the rainy season,” he said, adding that imports may still be required during the dry season.
He added the power generated from the new dam will help towards reducing the cost of electricity supplied in the country. However, he said it was not possible to exactly detail where the cost reductions would come from.
“We cannot say like that because it is an energy mixture in the system that is coming from everywhere. So the cost of the power can be reduced in this mixture,” Lean said.
San Vibol, an energy researcher at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said that generation of more energy did not necessarily mean a reduction in cost, and it would depend on governmental agencies to bring down other costs such as transmission and distribution costs.
“The price of electricity does not only depend on the source but also on the grid and its expansion. I don’t think hydropower [in itself] can reduce costs on Cambodia,” Vibol said.
He said that while hydropower in itself was clean, the government needed to consider its potential environmental impacts before going ahead with a project.
On the flip side, the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and biomass, are already part of the government’s renewable energy policy, with Vibol adding that these sources of energy need to be encouraged and tapped increasingly by the Kingdom.