Electric Company Blames Blackouts on Dam

Responding to reports of frequent power outages, Electricite du Cambodge’s Director General Tan Kim Vin said Sunday that Kom­pong Speu province’s Kirirom Dam—oper­ated by Chinese-owned CETIC In­ternational Hy­dropower Devel­op­ment Com­pany—can on­ly operate during the rainy part of the year.

“Every year it can work only six or seven months, sometimes eight months,” he said.

The ab­sence of the 12 mega­watts the dam produ­ces in the wet season has caused EdC to impose rolling blackouts on Phnom Penh to ra­tion its 110 megawatts. The company needs 120 megawatts to serve the de­mands of its 150,000 customers.

CETIC General Manager Ou Xiao Ming said Sunday that his company will restart the hydroelectric dam for about two weeks this month to give some power to EdC but will have to shut down again af­ter that due to a lack of water. “This is all that we can do for Cam­bodia right now,” he said, ad­ding that the dam ceased operations in January.

Opposition party lawmaker Son Chhay said Sunday that the dam located inside Kirirom Na­tional Park has not lived up to its prom­ise. “This project was a disaster,” he said. “It was not studied properly in terms of how much it would cost or how much electricity it would generate.”

He also accused CETIC of in­stal­ling outdated equipment. “Eur­o­peans studied the site and estimated the dam would cost $9 million. The final cost was much higher and the equipment they supplied is not sufficient,” he said.

Ou Xiao Ming said the dam, a Kompong Speu substation and transmission lines to Phnom Penh cost $24 million and there is no problem with the equipment. He also said it was never intended to work year-round.

CETIC built Kirirom on a 30-year build-operate-transfer concession from the government and used a loan from the Central Bank of China to rehabilitate the remnants of a dam destroyed during the 1970s.

The government agreed in 1999 to cover any losses the com­­pany has if the dam fails to re­coup its costs. The company is al­­so looking to build another dam in Kiri­rom National Park.

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