Prime Minister Hun Sen officially opened part of the 193-megawatt Kamchay Dam in Kampot province yesterday and said the new hydropower installation, which will initially produce 10 megawatts, will significantly reduce electricity prices in Phnom Penh when it becomes fully operational, which is expected to occur in 2011.
Mr Hun Sen said the dam would bring down electricity prices in the capital from the current $0.17 per kilowatt-hour to between $0.08 and $0.10 per kilowatt-hour, adding this would cut government costs of subsidizing electricity prices.
“In Phnom Penh we spend about $20 million per year” on subsidies, he said, adding, “We use too much gasoline to produce electricity. The world gasoline price continues to increase. When [it does], the electricity price also increases.”
At the ceremony, Hun Sen opened one of the project’s three hydropower installations. The largest, he said, would generate 180 megawatts and was 40 percent complete.
Chinese company Sino Hydro started construction in 2006 and the project was funded with a $280 million soft loan from China.
Electricite du Cambodge chairman Ty Norin said the dam should be completed by late 2011.
“It could transmit power to Phnom Penh, Takeo and Kampot or Kompong Speu province,” he said.
Mr Norin doubted, however, that the dam would reduce prices to less than $0.10 or $0.11 per kilowatt-hour, as it could only produce at a quarter of its capacity in the dry season. With gasoline prices likely to stay high, the capital would need a coal-fired plant to bring electricity prices down further, he added.
NGO Forum Director Chhit Sam Ath said the dam’s environmental consequences should not be overlooked.
“We are worried about the… dam’s impacts, as it is located wholly within Bokor National Park and will impact its forest, threatened species, eco-tourism potential and the livelihoods of local communities [dependent on the forest]… and [Kampot] town’s water supply.”