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He also accused CETIC of installing outdated equipment.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.