For those who thought the power situation was already gloomy, brace yourselves because
it is only going to get worse. Government officials say that throughout July the
city will be almost completely without power.
At the heart of the darkness is the barren state of the government's coffers and
the lack of money to buy oil to keep the city's aged generators running.
"Everything can be operated but it all depends on the money and our government
has no more money," said Vichtor You You, deputy head of the Electricity Company's
Even once money does come on stream You You said there will be a delay before oil
can be purchased and delivered because of the government's outstanding debts.
The existing administration sells electricity to Cambodians for between 250 to 500
riel per KW hour and to foreigners for 21 cents per KW hour.
You You said that because of the poor condition and inefficiency of the city's power
plants it costs 33 cents to produce one KW hour.
The company incurred losses of U.S. $3,449,101 last year and a further $896,608 in
the first five months of this year. Ministries were the worst offenders, leaving
the central government to cover their debts.
"This is an economic and political problem," You You said. "You should
understand that the government is not doing this deliberately although I know every-body
thinks that is the case."
At least 35,000 KW of electricity is required to meet the basic domestic needs of
Phnom Penh's residents but in recent times the electricity generating authority has
been able to produce only about 7,000 KW.
The Royal Palace is given first priority, followed by the water service stations,
high-ranking government officials' houses and information utilities. The second priority
includes hospitals, government ministries and at the bottom of the list are private
users and public areas.
Due to the irregular flow of power most factories, small enterprises or hotels, have
been forced to depend on their own generators. The shortage has also resulted in
rampant wire tapping and dangerous jumbles of wires now hang over many of Phnom Penh's
In addition to the city's woes is the generally decrepit state of the country's power
"Our engines are very old, and we did not have the spare parts," You You
Seventy percent of the engines at the city's four main power plants are broken or
under repair. The original machinery, some of which was installed as early as the
1920s, comes from a host of different countries including France, the United States,
Switzerland and the Soviet Union, adding to the difficulties of obtaining spare parts.
Chakangre power station, Phnom Penh's biggest plant used to produce 60 to 70 percent
of the city's power needs. The plant consists of three Czechoslovakian-made generators
installed in 1964. Each generator has a capacity to produce 6,000 KW. Originally
the plant operated two engines at a time and left one in reserve. Peam Ratha, manager
of the plant stated that now only one generator is operational. He said if this last
machine breaks down the city will be in big trouble.
Ratha said more than two million dollars has been spent on new parts and to hire
Czechoslovakian engineers to repair the plant.
"We have some ideas for improving production, but we have not been able to implement
If we could refurbish our engine we might be able save much money, maybe even buy
a new generator. But we are too poor, we spend a lot money but got less profit,"
Relief is on the way but not in a hurry. Construction of a new Japanese-funded power
plant will begin in 1994. When the two-billion yenplant is finished it will be able
to produce 10,000 KW.