South Korean-owned SPHP (Cambodia) Co Ltd’s under-construction $231 million, 80 megawatt (MW) Stung Pursat I hydropower dam is scheduled to be commissioned and operational in 2026, according to Pursat provincial governor Khoy Rida.

The governor was speaking at a press conference on the work, progress and accomplishments of the Pursat Provincial Administration over the past five years, at the Office of the Council of Ministers on March 7.

He noted that the Stung Pursat I – located in Stung Thmey village, Pramuoy commune, Veal Veng district – is the second hydropower dam project in the project, after the 120MW Stung Atai – in Chhay Louk village, O’Som commune, Veal Veng.

Rida asserted that the consistently high water levels of the Pursat River – a main tributary of the Tonle Sap Lake – would ensure that the Stung Pursat I generates considerable amounts of power every day, regardless of the season.

“This is according to the head of the company. And why was the Stung Pursat I hydroelectric dam so-named? If there’s one, there’ll definitely be two, and maybe there’ll be another project upstream, and in the future, there’ll be yet another next to the border with Koh Kong province,” he said with great enthusiasm.

“The new dam will be like a magic bullet. It will provide electricity and store water that can be used by farmers for dry-season rice production – meaning that they will be able to grow three rice crops a year. In addition, it will provide a rich natural tourist attraction. The reservoir will have a shoreline of up to 187km, and a depth ranging from 8m to 100m.

“The mountainous regions of the central Cardamom Mountains will be further protected by the flow-on effects of the dam’s construction. People affected by the construction of the reservoir will receive land elsewhere, cash payments and the opportunity to pursue new alternatives in agriculture and tourism,” he added.

According to Ministry of Mines and Energy undersecretary of state Victor Jona, the ministry granted SPHP Cambodia a licence to conduct a feasibility study on-site in 2012, and the company later signed a power purchase agreement with state utility Electricite du Cambodge (EdC) for the Stung Pursat I, with a tariff of $0.07 per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

SPHP Cambodia is the first South Korean firm to be authorised by the ministry to invest in a local hydropower dam, he noted.

Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem, accompanied by provincial authorities, recently inspected the site in preparation for a meeting with local residents.

The ministry said in a March 4 statement that an official groundbreaking for the site will be presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen in the “near future”.

The minister told a public forum in October that electricity now reaches 98.5 per cent of Cambodia’s villages – which have since risen to 14,563 – and that only a small percentage of isolated households remaining off the national grid.

He highlighted the Kingdom’s energy deficit-turned-surplus, affirming that installed power capacity – including imported electricity – now exceeds 4,000MW, compared to demand of just over 2,000MW.

Rida similarly noted at the March 7 conference that almost 98 per cent of Pursat province’s population now has access to electricity.