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Thai solar energy company aims for 20-megawatt plant

Workers walk past solar panels at the largest solar electricity plant in Thailand in 2014. Bloomberg
Workers walk past solar panels at the largest solar electricity plant in Thailand in 2014. Bloomberg

Thai solar energy company aims for 20-megawatt plant

Thai-listed renewable energy company, Inter Far East Corporation Public Company Limited (IFEC), which is constructing a 20-megawatt solar power plant for industrial applications in Kampong Speu province, aims to be up and running by the second quarter of this year, a company spokesperson said yesterday.

Commercial operations will take place in the province to the west of Phnom Penh where 2-megawatts of its renewable energy project have already been completed, explained Vimonrut MJ, secretary to IFEC Cambodia President.

“We are planning to sell the electricity to the factories around there,” she said. “I hope it will be completed sometime this year.”

She explained that although the plant design is capable of producing and distributing 20-megawatts of solar power, the energy company is currently only licensed by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) to distribute 10-megawatts. The lack of distribution licensing permits may delay completion of the project, she added.

IFEC originally entered into the Cambodian energy market in 2014 when the company signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with city hall to conduct a one-year feasibility study for a waste disposal biomass plant.

While that project never took off, the company has invested $1 million into the Kingdom, according to the company’s 2015 annual financial report. The project was originally slated to be completed in September of last year, but was delayed due to the rainy season.

The company currently operates nearly a dozen small-scale solar power operations and two renewable waste plants in Thailand totalling 30 megawatts of power annually, and accumulated a net profit of approximately $9.3 million last year. According to the financial report, the company has sent out bids for an additional 11 energy schemes.

Tun Lean, spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, confirmed the IFEC’s project proposal is estimated at over $1.2 million per 5 megawatts of energy produced. And that the company has recently entered into a contract deal to supply the yet to be constructed Byers factory, a US-based telecommunications supply company.

“This project will only supply factories and the people nearby under a REE [Rural Electricity Enterprise] licence,” he said. “This project will not supply power to EDC [Electricity Company of Cambodia] or sell power to the public, so its production capacity depends on demand from the factories following the contracts they sign.”

Jim Gramberg, CEO of Solar Partners Asia (Cambodia) Ltd, is skeptical about Thai investment in Cambodia’s green energy sector, especially if it is waiting for factory supply deals.

“There are many Thai companies trying to get into Cambodia to do these things. They make all sorts of promises and then when they actually come here, they find out it’s not as easy as they thought it was and keep customers on hold and waiting,” he said.

He added that although Cambodia has the capacity to generate about 600 megawatts of renewable energy in the next few years, the government’s policy goal of significantly lowering the price of electricity by 2020 through solar should be regarded lightly.

“I think that the intention of the government is not really relevant at this stage because they are just starting up with renewable energy in the form of solar and as time is passing, demand is rising,” he said, adding that the government currently lacks the knowledge to undertake large-scale green energy projects.

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