Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rolling blackouts ‘not in the works’: official

Rolling blackouts ‘not in the works’: official

A man conducts power line maintenance in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district
A man conducts power line maintenance in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district. Heng Chivoan

Rolling blackouts ‘not in the works’: official

Phnom Penh residents should experience blackouts less frequently this dry season, as state-run Electricite du Cambodge (EdC) now has enough power to avoid a repeat of last year’s rolling blackouts, a senior company official said yesterday.

The amount of electricity Cambodia will receive from several hydropower plants, along with power purchased from Thailand and Vietnam and repairs made to electrical infrastructure in the capital, should ensure enough electricity to make intentional power outages unnecessary, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Reported blackouts so far this year can be chalked up to technical problems caused by the way Phnom Penh’s electric grid is set up, he added.

The grid “looks like blood vessels in our body”, he said. “If any one of our vessels is cut off, another part is affected; if a wire is disconnected from one household, it will affect others.”

My Sovann, media project manager for Urban Voice Cambodia, which tracks and maps blackouts on its website based on reports from individuals who notify the group, said it received reports of about 700 separate blackouts last year.

Although the EdC employee said scheduled blackouts will not happen this year, Sovann pointed to comments made last year by Ty Thany, executive director of the Electricity Authority of Cambodia, that the public should not be notified of EdC’s intentional blackouts.

“Cambodian citizens should have certain rights to information about blackouts, when and why,” Sovann said, adding that EdC operates with limited transparency and accountability.

“EdC is very powerful in making decisions and charging electric fees,” Sovann said.

“The government should check the agreement and license of EdC, and see how they have been … trying to improve the electric situation in Cambodia.”

Furthermore, planned blackouts in the past have occurred frequently in Phnom Penh’s poorer areas, but rarely happen in more wealthy parts, such as Phnom Penh’s Boeung Keng Kang I commune, said Ou Virak, chairman of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

Virak said he was unaware of any EdC efforts to eliminate intentional blackouts, he said, but if made public the time and place they occurred, people would see the disparity.

“If it was actually informed publicly, you would know how blackouts were being allocated,” Virak said.

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