Prime Minister Hun Sen opened the nearly $800 million Lower Sesan II hydropower dam on Monday, marking the successful completion of the 11-year-long, three-nation joint venture.
Situated in Stung Treng province’s Sesan district, the hydropower dam is Asia’s longest at 6.5km. It is a joint venture by Chinese company Hydrolancang International, Cambodian company Royal Group, and Vietnamese company Vietnam Electricity.
The project is a 45-year Build-Operate-Transfer contract, in which five years was given for the companies to construct the dam and a further 40-year concession to operate it.
The plant is estimated to produce 1.9 billion kWh per year, with the electricity to be sold to the Cambodian government at a fixed price of 6.95 cents per kWh.
The new dam will boost Cambodia’s electricity production by 20 per cent and will provide power to Stung Treng, Preah Vihear and Ratanakkiri provinces.
Chiv Nava, a villager from Sesan district’s Kbal Romeas commune, told The Post on Monday that she was happy with the investment in the province.
“People in Sesan district did not have electricity before. I used oil lamps, fish-oil lamps, and torches. Now I have electricity,” said the woman, smiling from ear to ear."
Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke of his pride at the opening of the dam. He said the project was a part of Cambodia’s “rectangular strategy”, placing the development of roads, clean water and electricity as a priority in the development of the Kingdom.
During the speech, the prime minister reminded his audience that Cambodia did not have electricity for much of its recent history due to war, and that oil lamps and torches were used to generate light.
The development of reliable electricity sources, he said, was essential for the country’s economic development.
“Cambodia must push for further development of the electricity sector because now the country has a higher demand for electricity as a result of our growing industrial and agro-industry sectors."
“We must also connect people in rural areas. Therefore, I urge the Electricity Authority to create more electrical lines and connect the rural areas,” he said.
The impact of the dam on local people has been a concern throughout its construction, disrupting communities that have lived on the banks of the Sesan river for generations.
In addition, it is estimated that at least 78,000 people living above the dam site will lose access to migratory fish. The government says it has paid compensation to these communities – giving them land, homes, and 5ha of land per family for farming.
Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem said the dam offered the Kingdom many benefits, such as job creation, income through taxation, electrical security and a reduction in Cambodia’s reliance on oil imports, economic development, and poverty reduction.
He said the dam will likely lead to lower electricity prices for average Cambodians.
Suy Sem said as a result of Cambodia’s investment in its electrical infrastructure, the country’s “electricity supply has increased to 2,648MW this year – up from 150MW 20 years ago.”
Currently, Cambodia has a network of 2,141km of high-capacity electrical lines, as well as 33 sub-electricity stations that connect and send power to other sub-stations in Phnom Penh and 20 other provinces directly.
Electricity is available in 12,305 villages in Cambodia, equal to 86.85 per cent of the country’s villages. Connected households have jumped to 2.55 million, equal to 72.16 per cent of all homes in the Kingdom.
Last year, the government adjusted electricity prices for homes consuming no more than 50kW per month in rural areas. Before the 2018 election, Hun Sen also promised to lower electricity prices further in 2019 and 2020.