Cambodia needs to substantially increase its energy efficiency and production capacity to meet the soaring demand from the industrial sector as well as to power economic growth, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The premier was speaking during a March 14 inspection of the construction site of the under-development 80-megawatt (MW) Stung Pursat I hydropower dam in Pramuoy commune, Veal Veng district, which is expected to be commissioned and operational in 2026.
This comes after a new report from the Electricity Authority of Cambodia (EAC) revealed that the 21,895 formal medium- and large-scale commercial and industrial customers consumed 5,236.46 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity last year, or 37.60 per cent of the nationwide total of 13,928.35GWh.
For comparison, in 2019, the 10,190 such customers consumed 3,190.20GWh of electricity, or 30.74 per cent of the nationwide total of 10,378.37GWh, the report said, indicating that the per-customer average fell 23.61 per cent from 313.07MWh in 2019 to 239.16MWh in 2022.
Hun Sen underscored that nationwide electricity demand now exceeds 2,200MW, with Phnom Penh alone accounting for more than 1,000MW, and suggested stepping up power generation through novel sources and solutions as energy needs increase.
“These energy sources will give us the opportunity to prop up the industrial and other sectors that have considerable electricity needs. Perhaps more importantly, tourism-related services use massive amounts of electricity – how much does a hotel with 400-500 rooms need?” the premier asked rhetorically.
“Electricity drives employment and production, and factories will need power to manufacture their goods, hence why demand increases from year to year,” he said, reflecting on the distant bygone days of the 1990s, when nationwide installed power capacity was in the ballpark of 30MW, most of which supplied just the capital.
Electricity Authority of Cambodia (EAC) chairman Yim Viseth highlighted at the agency’s annual meeting last month that the electricity sector – along with ensuring adequate, stable reliable and affordable power supply to consumers – is a top government priority.
The sector serves as a vehicle for development in the industrial, agricultural, tourism, commercial and other economic areas, as well as the financial security of the population, he stressed.
Installed power capacity – including imported electricity – hit 4,495MW by end-2022, up from 3,990MW a year earlier, he affirmed, adding that currently 62 per cent of the national grid is powered by clean energy sources, such as hydropower, solar and biomass.
EAC statistics show that more than 3,464MW – or 77.1 per cent – of end-2022 installed power capacity came from domestic sources. Similarly, state-owned power utility Electricite du Cambodge confirmed that over 1,000MW of electricity was imported from Vietnam, Thailand and Laos last year.
The prime minister has also confirmed the 62-per-cent clean-energy figure, assuring that the government is working to increase that proportion, even though the job may be onerous.
In a previous interview with The Post, Federation of Associations for Small and Medium Enterprises of Cambodia (FASMEC) president Te Taingpor commented that further reducing electricity prices would slash production costs and strengthen overall competitiveness on the international stage, and thereby be key to bringing in more investors.
“When fuel and electricity prices are stable and low, foreign investors will see opportunities,” he stressed, pointing out raw-material and labour costs as additional major priorities.
The company behind the estimated $231 million Stung Pursat I project is SPHP (Cambodia) Co Ltd, the first South Korean firm to be authorised by the Ministry of Mines and Energy to invest in a local hydropower dam.
During the March 14 inspection, the prime minister also asked for understanding from the 347 households formally determined to be significantly adversely affected by the Stung Pursat I, arguing that the electricity to be generated by the project is a genuine necessity for national development.
“They’re affected to some extent and we have to resolve the issue – today’s meeting is part of the solution,” Hun Sen said.
“Hydropower is regarded as a renewable energy that does not contribute to climate change, although construction does affect people on the ground, requiring some to move out,” he explained, underlining the benefits of water power sources versus coal.
Some 99 per cent of Cambodia’s villages – which currently number 14,563 – and 90 per cent of all households have been electrified to-date, he said, adding in jest that the candle and oil lamp may soon fall into disuse.
Pursat provincial governor Khoy Rida confirmed that a satisfactory resolution had been found, through compensation, in cases involving 342 of the affected households, or 98.56 per cent of the total.