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China transforms Cambodia's electricity

China transforms Cambodia's electricity

Chinese companies are bringing a huge change to Cambodia's electricity supply, transforming

it from dependence on local generators to a nationwide grid of hydroelectricity.

Three power stations are being built now, and another three are planned.

Youn Heng, Deputy Director of the Evaluation and Incentive Department at the Council

for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), said China is the main engine for Cambodia's

hydropower development, and is investing huge capital compared with other countries.

"We can see that many hydropower development projects are from China,"

Heng said. "China has invested nearly a thousand million dollars in this sector."

He said China had invested in building a hydroelectric power plant at Kirirom in

Kampong Speu, the $280 million Kamchay dam in Kampot, and a $400 million hydropower

dam on the Steung Atai in Koh Kong province.

Heng said that besides hydropower, Chinese companies had invested in a variety of

projects, such as infrastructure, textiles, mines and agriculture.

Bun Narith, Deputy General Director of the General Department of Energy at Ministry

of Industry, Mines and Energy (MIME) said that on February 9 the Council of Ministers

contracted the China Yunan Corporation for International Techno-Economic Cooperation

to develop the Steung Atai hydropower dam. And the Yunan Southeast Asia Economy and

Technology Investment Industrial Co Ltd has been contracted to install electricity

transmission lines from the Steung Atai to Phnom Penh, Kampong Chhnang and Pursat,

and to Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap provinces.

Narith said a Steung Atai feasibility study is nearly complete and dam construction

will begin soon.

"The firm will take four years for the development and will produce 120 megawatts,"

Narith said, "The power link from Thailand to Siem Reap is not enough because

the province is more developed and requires more power."

CDC's Heng said he had not seen the company proposals yet but had learned that the

companies had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with MIME.

MIME's Narith said that besides the $400 million investment on the Steung Atai, the

company is also studying the feasibility of building other dams in the area, near

the junction of Koh Kong, Kampong Speu and Pursat provinces. These would be on the

Steung Russei Chrum, Steung Chhay Areng and Steung Ta Tai. If these dams are built

they and the Atai will produce 852 megawatts.

Son Dara, general secretary of Koh Kong province, said local people will receive

adequate electricity from the project and it has the potential to attract more investment

to the province.

Dara said a Japanese company had studied the feasibility of developing hydropower

in Thmar Baing district and a Thai company of developing the Steung Me Teuk near

the border.

"If approved by CDC they will produce 500 megawatts," Dara said.

Keo Remy, a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian, said Cambodians will have adequate

electricity eventually, but the price will remain high because the capital investment

in hydropower was high. Nevertheless, it should be cheaper than oil-produced power.

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