State-run Electricite du Cambodge sent letters to approximately 40 businesses and factories in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district notifying them that the city would begin periodically cutting their power—and wouldn’t be stopping anytime soon, an EdC official said.
EdC has requested that businesses be on standby, ready to use their own generators in the case of targeted blackouts—which it said would cut power all day from 8 am to 10 pm two or three days a week, according to Chea Sun Hel, EdC director of distribution. No exact dates were given for when they would sever power to which establishments, he said, adding that the power cuts would last through at least 2008.
“We are continuing to power down here and there, as we have done before when lacking electricity,” he said. “I have sent a [notification] letter to about 40 factories and enterprises within the last month,” he added.
Chea Sun Hel said he believed EdC’s current plan to cut off power to select factories every day was the only way to efficiently conserve the city’s electricity supply. Large factories and business demand a significant portion of the city’s electricity, so severing power to a chosen handful can significantly boost power reserves, he said.
Chea Sun Hel said Cambodia should be able to connect with Vietnam’s power grid by late 2008 or early 2009, making regular power outages a thing of the past.
For now, however, EdC falls about 10 megawatts short of the 185 to 190 megawatts per day demanded by Phnom Penh and Takhmau, the capital of Kandal province. Chea Sun Hel added that in the dry season, demand reaches about 210 megawatts per day.
Chea Sun Hel said constraints on energy in developing nations are inevitable and urged businesses to join forces in coping with the shortage by obtaining their own emergency power supplies.
“We have no other choice. They should use their individual generators in case we lack electricity,” he said.
EdC’s announcement did not exactly startle business owners, as government officials have previously warned that power outages were to be a feature of life in Phnom Penh for the next few years.
Van Sou Ieng, chairman of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said that a few garment factories have been affected by the power outages.
“The cost of production goes up when they have to use their own generators,” he said, adding that he wasn’t surprised by the blackouts given the state of Cambodia’s limited resources.
“Manufacturers know to be prepared,” he said. “[They] have their own generators.”
But some, like Hay Ly Aun, general manager of PPM Pharma Product Manufacturing in Dangkao’s Choam Chao commune, are without generators, and their prospects are far dimmer.
Hay Ly Aun said his pharmaceutical company received the EdC notice July 3 and has been experiencing loss of power a few days a week for the last month.
Because they do not have a generator, they are forced to completely halt operations every time EdC cuts their power, which Hay Ly Aun said has dealt his business a serious blow.
He estimated that every day they are unable to operate costs his company around $5,000. He added that his workers will not get paid when they are unable to work.
“We face a huge problem when the electricity is cut,” he said, adding that the air conditioner, which demands electricity, is necessary to maintain the high quality of the drugs produced at his factory.
“It’s one day on, one day off,” Hay Ly Aun said. “We can’t be patient anymore.”
Tann Monivann, vice president of the conglomerate Mong Reththy Group, said he does not support EdC’s policy and thinks they should have worked harder to ensure that businesses are able to use power consistently.
“Why doesn’t the [Industry, Mines and Energy] Ministry allow more businesspeople to invest more in power plants?” he asked.
“If we talk about business, factories and enterprises, we are talking about electricity,” he said. “Garment factories need electricity all day and all night.”
Contacted Monday, Ith Praing, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, declined to comment and referred all questions to EdC.
Wing Hour, managing director of City Power Group Corporation and deputy chief of commercial sector for the Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce, said he believes the power situation will be resolved within the next four months.
He said his company is working with the Ministry of Industry and EdC officials to construct a new $4 million power plant in Russei Keo district that will produce an additional 23 megawatts from four generators.
“We are helping the ministry to provide enough electricity,” he said. “If we wait for power from Vietnam, businesses will have to wait one more year for enough electricity.”
(Additional reporting by Emily Lodish)