Prime Minister Hun Manet has announced the seventh-mandate government’s introduction of a six-point policy to continue the sustainable development of the Kingdom’s electricity network, in order to improve the livelihoods of the Cambodian people.

His remarks came as he presided over the November 30 groundbreaking ceremony of a new dam at the Stung Tatai Leu Hydropower project in Thma Bang district, Koh Kong province. The ceremony was attended by Chinese ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian, along with various officials and local residents.

“I have introduced this policy to continue the sustainability of our electricity development. First, we need to ensure that every corner of the Kingdom has access to an adequate power supply,” he said.

“Therefore, the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Electricity Authority of Cambodia have to devise plans to ensure that the just over one per cent of villages that do not yet have an electricity supply will have access by 2030,” he added.

He explained that the second point of the policy was the modernisation of service provision for consumers, including allowing them to pay their bills online. The third point is a commitment to keeping prices as low as possible for the public.

“Before we approve any project, whether hydropower or solar, our most important task is to negotiate prices and ensure that they will be affordable for the people. We don’t carry out these projects to look good – It is important that electricity supplies are stable and affordable,” he said.

The fourth point of the policy encouraged Cambodia’s participation in an energy transition towards a carbon neutral society, in alignment with current global trends. Fifth, it encourages the participation of the private sector in terms of investment and the business of providing electricity services. 

The final point focuses on the strengthening and expansion of international cooperation – both inside and outside the region – in the energy sector.

“These are the plans and principles the seventh-mandate government has prepared, in order to continue growing the Kingdom’s electrical networks,” said Manet.

He added that all countries have a responsibility not only to ensure high-quality, stable, efficient and affordable energy supplies, but also to bring the energy sector towards carbon neutrality to address global climate change. 

Minister of Mines and Energy Keo Rattanak also addressed the ceremony.

He said the Stung Tatai Leu Hydropower project was built by the China National Heavy Machinery Corporation (CHMC) as part of an economic concession, with the first dam, which generates 246 megawatts, opening in December 2015.

The second, which is located about 10km north of the first, will generate 246 megawatts.

“The entire project, including the dam, the reservoirs, tunnels, roads, bridges and the new dam, will cost approximately $389.4 million in investment capital,” said Rattanak.

He added that the economic concession has been granted for 39 years – four for construction and 35 for conducting business. The annual output of electricity from the projects will be sold to Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) with an average of 527 million kilowatt hours per year.

The project uses water sources from two rivers, the Kep and Tatai Rivers. The two dams will establish two reservoirs which will connect to one another.

Manet also reiterated his government’s position that it would not approve the construction of any coal-fired power stations, noting that they did not align with the Kingdom’s vision of clean, green development.

“Renewable energy is the cheapest and cleanest way to power Cambodia, and investment in any other energy generation should be focused on maximising and unlocking renewables,” said Bridget McIntosh, chair of non-profit energy specialists EnergyLab Cambodia.

“To support renewable energy, we need to focus on technologies that are able to provide flexibility and responsiveness so they can fit around wind and sun power when they are needed. Coal is yesterday’s electricity, and it’s very promising that Cambodia’s looking for ways to reduce its emissions with alternatives,” she added.

She cautioned that new power plants need to be planned in a way that minimises the amount of fossil fuels that need to be imported into Cambodia, so the Kingdom is protected from global price fluctuations.

In a report, the energy ministry said that as of 2022, Cambodia had a total of 4,246.77 megawatts of electricity supply. Slightly more than 73 per cent of it was generated domestically, with the rest being imported.

It added that nearly 14,000 villages, or about 98.27 per cent, were connected to the national grid. The remaining villages were extremely isolated or located on islands.