Cambodia's biggest hydropower dam, 338MW Russei Chrum Krom in southwestern Koh Kong province, has begun operating.
The hydropower project took nearly five years to build at a cost of about approximately US$500 million. China's state-controlled China Huadian Corp,. which developed the dam, will also operate it for 35 years. The dam will then be handed over to the Cambodian government.
Reducing costs and improving supply
According to Prime Minister Mr Hun Sen, the hydroelectric dam will supply electricity for those villages and factories which have had very limited access to reliable power and it will help reduce electricity costs for those living in the province’s Sre Ambel and Botum Sakor district towns. He says that consumers can expect to see a reduction in electricity prices in January already and then again in March 2016. Residents of Khemara Phoumint City and Mondol Seima district, which currently rely on electricity imported from Thailand, could expect energy prices to begin to fall in May.
Says the Prime Minister, “It’s not just electricity used to light people’s homes, but it also creates thousands of jobs in thousands of places. “It will supply [electricity] to factories, enterprises…and special economic zones that can create jobs for Cambodia’s economy.”
Growing industrial sector needs power
About 60% of Cambodia's villages have access to electricity, according to government officials. While development has increased residential access, demand for power has grown in the industrial sector.
Ieng Savan, deputy director of the Koh Kong mines and energy department, said electricity generated from the new project so far only supplies 2.5MW of energy to the downtown area of Khemara Phoumint City, while an additional 10MW is being transmitted to factories and the surrounding region.
“The electricity has not yet been distributed outside the provincial town,” Savan said, adding that transmission lines were still being built, but that he did not know when they would be finished.
China is the biggest foreign investor in Cambodia and has invested over US$1.6 billion into the development of six Cambodian hydropower projects with a combined capacity of 928MW. The last project is due for completion later this year.
Electricite du Cambodge, the country’s national electricity supplier, is expected to build a transmission network that will distribute power created from the new dam and from the recently completed Stung Tatai Dam, also in Koh Kong, nationally. Development is to begin in early 2016.
Cambodia has great potential in the development of local clean energy, particularly from solar and hydropower. About 500MW of solar PV, small hydro and biomass projects have been announced to date. Our webinar, Policies and incentives to encourage renewable energy development in Cambodia, explores the opportunities further. This will be an interesting country to watch as China continues to invest in its critical infrastructure.