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Power bill spikes raise alarm

A woman stands next to electricity meters yesterday at the White Building. A recent increase in bill totals has sparked a wave of complaints to the state-owned electricity company Elecricite du Cambodge.
A woman stands next to electricity meters yesterday at the White Building. A recent increase in bill totals has sparked a wave of complaints to the state-owned electricity company Electricite du Cambodge. Pha Lina

Power bill spikes raise alarm

Seemingly arbitrary increases in electricity prices are raising eyebrows in Phnom Penh, as residents’ bills are showing marked-up charges despite unchanged usage patterns – and frequent blackouts.

Citizens are lodging complaints with the state-owned electricity company Electricite du Cambodge (EdC), claiming that their bills are rapidly increasing, even with no new power-sucking devices in their homes.

Mov Chansothearvy, of Spean Kpuos village in Kilometre 6 commune in Russey Keo district, said that, in general, her home bill usually comes out to about $30 to $32 per month.

However, over the past two months, she was puzzled to find her expenses shot up to about $54 per month in May, and then $91 in June.

“I do not know the root cause of the increase in the amount of electricity, especially when blackouts have occurred many times and it has taken a long time to get power back,” she said.

“There is either something wrong with the meter, or the EdC is using a system which allows the meter to move irregularly.”

Lov Huythearm, another Kilometre 6 resident, said that his power usage supposedly increased 30-fold from May to June.

“I almost fainted when I saw the electricity invoice,” he said.

“Last month [May], my house consumed 122kwh, so I paid [$25]. But this month, it reached 3,109kwh, and I had to spend [$615].

I can’t accept this, and I demand an inspection by the EdC.”

EdC executive director Ty Thany admitted yesterday that these problems weren’t new.

He said irregular meters were found in Takeo, Kampong Cham, Banteay Meanchey and Kandal, as well, and that many issues could be traced to faulty wiring.

“The existing problems mostly occur because the wires in the users’ houses may malfunction, or their meters are too old to use,” he said.

“Homeowners who are faced with these issues should file complaints to the EdC.”

When asked why rates were rising despite blackouts occurring, Thany offered that people are simply forgetting to turn off or unplug their devices when the power is off.

“Blackouts don’t cause [rate] increases,” he said.

“When there is a blackout, people should still shut off their devices. When the power comes back on, it could damage the devices.”

Electricity usage is on the upswing in the Kingdom. According to the World Bank, from 2010 to 2014, Cambodia used 164kwh of electricity per capita, compared to 144kwh from 2005 to 2009.

Furthermore, a UN draft bill on Cambodia’s energy sector strategy alleged that the capital accounts for 70 per cent of the country’s total energy usage.

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