Gov’t Plan Threatens 3 Rural Power Providers

Three independent rural electricity enterprises in the Banteay Meanchey provincial capital of Sisophon are smarting as they face imminent closure now that state-run Electricite du Cam­bodge is poised to take their place, a government official said Wednesday.

Ith Praing, secretary of state for the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said the government will use a $3 million Asian De­velopment Bank loan to open a

4-megawatt power plant scheduled to be in operation in March 2004, when, he said, independent energy providers “will end without condition.”

The project will service only the town of Sisophon, not the districts and communes of Banteay Meanchey province.

The plan will offer a higher standard of service and will re­duce the price consumers pay from 1,500 riel to 700 riel per kilowatt-hour, Ith Praing said.

Independent electricity provid­ers are not so excited about the plan. Leap Man, president of the Rur­al Electricity Enterprise As­sociation, said the action by the government—which will turn out the lights on 10 REEs in Banteay Meanchey and 15 more in Bat­tam­bang province—will cost the REEs several million dollars in in­vestment capital and will eliminate 150 jobs in those areas.

“Our business will be finished when the ADB gives the loan for EdC to expand the capacity of electricity for those provinces, Leap Man said Tuesday. “We can do it, reach higher standards and reduce the price of electricity if there is support from the ministry.”

“It is not true that the REEs are acting in a manner that is destructive to Cambodia…. The federation is committed to the concept of improving the level of electricity services in our service areas so that adequate electricity services will be available in safe and reliable forms at reasonable tariff rates to both residential and local business consumers,” Leap Man wrote in a recent letter to the EdC, the ADB and the ministry.

Ty Norin, chairman of the state’s Electricity Authority of Cambodia disagrees. “If you are a country lover,” he asked, “what kind of electrical system do you want to provide to your people? Do you want disorderly electrical lines linked on trees? Or do you want a proper post?”

Battambang Governor San Hiep said it doesn’t “matter who distributes power to the people, they just need it as cheap as possible.”

Currently, power in Banteay Meanchey is twice as expensive as it is in Battambang, he said.

Regardless, Ith Praing said, the REEs were warned. “We’ve told them every year about the state’s power development plan. We told them that we were working with the ADB and that we will be providing energy to the town.”

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