A fault in electrical transmissions knocked out power to Phnom Penh and 21 of Cambodia’s 24 provinces on Tuesday, disrupting municipal water supplies, interrupting trading in the capital’s markets and leading to renewed calls for the country to further develop its own power generation.
Electricite du Cambodge (EDC), the country’s monopoly energy supplier, did not provide an explanation for the outages, saying only in a Facebook post that there had been an issue at a substation in Takeo province.
According to EDC and the Electricity Authority of Cambodia, the Takeo substation is a key link between Phnom Penh and Vietnam, just 50 km away, from where Cambodia imports a significant portion of its electricity supply.
“At 1:55 p.m. there was a case of a power outage from a substation in Takeo that transfers power to Phnom Penh, causing national grid outages in Phnom Penh and all other provinces except Takeo, Kampot and Preah Sihanouk provinces,” EDC said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
Large swaths of the country intermittently lost power for more than about two hours, including Siem Reap City, where deputy provincial governor Ly Samreth said the entire city had lost power for about 20 minutes, although he would not elaborate on how the rest of the province had been affected or whether services in the city had been disrupted.
Inside Phnom Penh’s Central Market at about 2:30 p.m., stall owners fanned themselves with sheets and pieces of cardboard as a substitute for the electric fans that had stopped spinning when the power cut out.
Siv Kheng, 30, a clothes vendor, said the market had no generator in case of outages.
“It is hot and dark inside,” Ms. Kheng said. “It is hard to see.”
According to the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority, the city’s provision of water to its more than 1.6 million residents was affected by the blackout. The authority “has been interrupted in supplying clean water for our people,” it said in a post on its Facebook page.
EDC posted an update to its Facebook page at 4 p.m. saying the grid had lost 550 megawatts during the outage but that power had been restored.
Horn Vathna, chief of the EDC’s information and customer service office, directed a reporter to customer service operators, while EDC director-general Keo Ratanak could not be reached despite several attempts.
EDC’s provincial director in Takeo, Phan Kosal, could not be reached.
Takeo provincial police chief Ouk Samnang said he was unaware of any incident that could have caused an outage at the substation in Takeo.
Chhe Lidin, a spokesman at the Mines and Energy Ministry, declined to comment over the telephone and asked a reporter to send questions by email instead. He did not respond to the email. Four other ministry spokesmen could not be reached.
Jayant Menon, lead economist in trade and regional cooperation at the Asian Development Bank, said Cambodia should look to producing its own energy in the near future.
“Cambodia imports a lot of its energy from Vietnam because it is a much cheaper and more efficient producer of energy,” Mr. Menon said.
“Cambodia needs to look at harnessing its own resources, particularly in the hydropower sector, where it can produce competitive pricing for electricity,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Van Roeun and Hannah Hawkins)