The construction of a power transmission line connecting the Kingdom’s south to the border with Laos is expected to be started at least by next year, according to an official from the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME).
In September 2019, Cambodia’s state-owned utility firm Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) signed a 30-year deal to buy coal power from two producers with a combined capacity of 2,400 megawatts (mW) situated in Laos’ Sekong province.
A megawatt is a unit for measuring power and represents 1 million watts which is equivalent to the energy produced by 10 automobile engines or 330 average homes for one hour.
The two companies – Xekong Thermal Power Plant Co Ltd and TSBP Sekong Power and Mineral Co Ltd – will start supplying power to Cambodia from 2024.
Victor Jona, MME’s director-general of the energy department, said that Cambodia expects to import 300 megawatt from the Laos’ coal power plant in the first phase by 2025 and other 300 megawatt for next year on until the 2,400 mW target is reached.
“We hope that the construction of infrastructure such as transmission line and national power sub-station could be started by next year,” he said, however, the timeline could be longer than this in practice.
He said the connection of about 300 kilometres (km) to 400km of transmission line will take time because the government needs a detailed study on the social impact.
“Such a huge project costing billions of dollars requires us to mobilise more funds and infrastructure connectivity while we need to narrow down the social impact on both people and the environment as much as possible,” he said, without being specific about the figures.
Jona said, however, so far the government has yet approved any companies to construct the transmission line connection even though the government has already completed the first phase of studying on the project and a detailed study will be started soon.
He said Cambodia needs to build a 500 kilovolt transmission line connecting from the country’s south to the border between two countries while Laos also has an obligation to connect from the power plant to the border as well.
Cambodia is trying to maintain its momentum as one of the fastest-growing economies in Asean, even as it grapples with having one of the highest electricity tariffs in the region.
“Energy is the core of social and economic development so, when we receive this power, it will help us in power security for households, services, agriculture and commerce and it will help promote the Kingdom’s local economy,” Jona said.
About 92.68 percent, or 13,131 villages of Cambodia’s total villages, had access to electricity by the end of 2019, according to a report from the Mines and Energy Ministry.
The government is committed to having all villages in the Kingdom connected to electricity by the end of 2020.
The report said Cambodia’s main electricity sources are hydroelectric dams and coal-fired power plants. The country has seven Chinese-built hydropower dams with a total capacity of 1,328mW and three coal-fired power plants with a combined capacity of 675mW.
Cambodia is seeing less demand for electricity during the pandemic spread because some factories have been closing operations and the tourism sector such as hotels and guesthouses have also reduced electricity consumption through temporary or permanent closures, according to Jona.
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