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EDC addresses public criticism over blackouts and billing

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Keo Ratanak holds an electricity meter during the press conference. KT/Tep Sony

The Electricity Authority of Cambodia and Electricité du Cambodge yesterday held a press conference to fend off criticism from the public regarding electricity shortages and billing irregularities.

During the press conference, which was organised by the Government Spokespersons Unit, EDC director-general Keo Ratanak said the EDC received many complaints from customers between January and July, including 237 posted on Facebook.

“This year, there has been a storm of protests regarding electricity issues, including insults on Facebook that accused us of ‘sucking people’s blood,’” Mr Ratanak said. “But I want to inform you that we have reduced the price of electricity from 4,000 riels per kilowatt to 380 riels, 480 riels and 610 riels because we are paying attention to people’s livelihoods.”

Mr Ratanak was referring to different rates being applied based on the amount of electricity consumed by a household.

He noted that any EDC official found to have cheated customers will be sacked and be held accountable in accordance with the law.

A man checks his power usage on his meter at his home in the capital. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Mr Ratanak added that in order to avoid misunderstandings, the government will replace English with Khmer on monthly electricity bills.

“We wish to ensure that there have been no changes to the [rates],” Mr Ratanak said. “We will check for you – free of charge – if you have any suspicions.”

He noted that in order to file a complaint, residents should use the EDC’s hotline or send a direct message to the EDC’s official Facebook page instead of posting on social media.

The Kingdom faced an electricity shortage earlier this year that led to rolling blackouts to conserve power.

The government said at the time that the blackouts were necessary because a lack of rain had affected the output of the country’s hydropower dams.

Mr Ratanak also addressed critics of hydropower dams during the press conference.

“When we have a power project, we always get backlash from opposition protesters – they are against any hydropower dams,” Mr Ratanak said. “In Vietnam, their government can build a lot of hydropower dams.”

He said the government has a policy to reduce the import of electricity in order to make Cambodia self-reliant.

Mr Ratanak noted that currently, Cambodia imports 10 percent of its electricity supply from Vietnam, six from Thailand and two from Laos.

“In 2008 and 2010, 70 to 80 percent of our supply depended on Vietnam and Thailand,” he said. “Now we import less from them.”

According to the Mines and Energy Ministry, Cambodia produced 2,650 megawatts of electricity last year, of which 1,329 megawatts, or 50 percent, came from hydroelectric dams.

When asked why the price of electricity in the Kingdom is more expensive when compared to neighbouring countries, Mr Ratanak said countries like Thailand and Vietnam began developing their energy sector earlier than Cambodia.

“We don’t believe that our electricity price is higher than Singapore, the Philippines and other countries in Asean, but the truth is that our prices are higher than Vietnam and Thailand,” he said. “Vietnam and Thailand are capable of producing more than 40,000 megawatts while our country only can produce 2,000. So, we can’t compare to them.”

“Like Vietnam, they have many hydropower dams and coal and gas-powered [facilities],” he said. “They also export gas, and what do we have?”

“Vietnam ended their war a long time ago and they had ample time to develop its electricity sector,” Mr Ratanak added. “We just ended the civil war in 1998.”

EAC chairman Yim Viseth said the government has so far installed meters in 34 percent of homes being rented by garment workers across Phnom Penh. Mr Viseth noted that landlords must avoid charging the workers extra.

“In principle, the government wants our workers, who rent rooms, to pay less for electricity,” he said. “Currently, we have installed electricity meters in over 30,000 rooms [in the capital].”

Mr Viseth noted that anyone who complains about irregularities caused by the government-installed electricity meters can install their own meters.

Electricity issues in the Kingdom.

WATCH: Government Spokesperson Unit is holding a press conference at Concil of Ministers on Thursday (August 8, 2019) to address people concern regarding electricity issues in the Kingdom. KT/Ben Sokhean

Posted by Khmer Times on Thursday, 8 August 2019

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