The blackouts that plague Phnom Penh could end by May with the completion of a new link to the Vietnamese power grid, but until then the capital can expect to be without power for 10 percent of each workday, officials said Sunday.
“In April the wire connection will reach Takeo province, and then Phnom Penh,” said Ith Praing, secretary of state with the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy. “This year, we will absolutely have enough electricity,” he added.
An official with state-owned utility Electricite du Cambodge, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the new connection should open up an extra 190 megawatts and be finished by May.
At the moment, he said, electricity production in Phnom Penh can’t keep up with demand.
“The production capacity is 190 megawatts, but the potential of consumption is up to 220 megawatts,” he said, adding that hydropower plants allow EdC to churn out about 10 megawatts more in the rainy season.
When asked whether EdC would provide a schedule for the blackouts, the official said the outages are unpredictable.
“We use all resources to support the need, so we don’t know exactly when the generators will run out,” the official said.
Ith Praing said the link to Vietnam was originally supposed to be finished in 2003 but had been delayed by “lack of budgets and the elections.” Blackouts in Phnom Penh have increased in frequency in recent years, and in early 2008 Prime Minister Hun Sen cited a growing appetite for electricity when he announced that Vietnam had agreed to increase supplies to Cambodia.
Ith Praing said the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy does not have a plan to deal with the blackouts because the new connection to Vietnam will be finished soon. He said the best thing to do is to be patient and conserve energy.
“We have no solution for two or three months, and we could not find investors [in electricity] within this short term,” he said. “In this situation, we have to be patient with the blackouts for these several months.”
EdC Director Keo Rattanak said he was too busy to comment Sunday, and that he would not speak to reporters unless they made an appointment.
National Authority of Electricity chairman Ty Norin could not be reached for comment.