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Power shortages again in dry season, says prime minister

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The Kingdom can currently generate a total of 1,328MW from hydropower, but low water levels will increase electricity shortages, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday. Heng Chivoan

Power shortages again in dry season, says prime minister

Cambodia will face power shortages again from the end of this year throughout the dry season, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday.

Speaking at the official launch of the National Strategic Development Plan 2019-2023, Hun Sen said the shortages were due to unprecedented low water levels in the Mekong River leading to hydropower generation dropping below local demand.

The Kingdom can currently generate a total of 1,328MW from hydropower, he said, but the low water levels will increase electricity shortages from 184MW to 687MW.

“I recommend Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem to order the acceleration of the construction and preparation of the 400MW power generators earlier than planned, adding more workers and working day and night,” the prime minister said.

He was referring to the $180 million 200MW generator from Germany and the $175 million 200MW power generator from Finland that the government agreed to purchase in June and July, respectively.

In June, Electricite du Cambodge (EdC) signed an agreement with two Chinese companies to build a $380 million 400MW oil and liquefied natural gas power plant in Kandal province’s Lvea Em district.

Victor Jona, the director-general of the Ministry of Mines and Energy’s General Department of Energy, said the plant will be online in May next year.

“This plant will help curb the shortage of electricity during the dry season – when demand is the highest – as our hydropower production is reduced. I appeal to consumers to save power altogether,” said Jona.

To address the power shortages, he said, the government is planning talks late this month or early next month with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) to purchase an additional 300MW of power.

Early in September, a cabinet meeting decided that the government will purchase 2,400MW of electricity from Laos.

A lack of electricity supply has become an obstacle to the Kingdom’s manufacturing sector, which faces higher electricity costs compared to neighbouring countries and puts a strain on competitiveness.

Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) vice-president Chan Sokheang said the advance notice could help prepare rice millers to adjust their production lines.

“We need a lot of power. We will meet with the EdC and negotiate so that rice millers [who are] members [of the CRF] can operate. We will find a solution and talk to the rice millers . . . try to grind at night, try to shift schedules around,” Sokheang said.

Last year, Cambodia consumed 2,650MW of electricity, a 15 per cent increase compared to 2017. Of the amount, 442MW was imported from Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. The rest was produced in Cambodia from coal-fired plants, hydropower dams and solar farms.

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