Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered government officials across the country to adopt strict electricity conservation measures—a move that will extend as far as turning off street lamps.
In a government directive issued Wednesday, the prime minister wrote that the government plans to spend $24 million to subsidize the state-owned utility Electricite du Cambodge in an effort to keep electricity prices down. He added that the government expects to spend even more in subsidies in the future.
Given that the government is already spending millions subsidizing the EdC, Hun Sen said that other cost-cutting measures related to electricity must be enacted.
“The government has a policy for all state ministries and institutions across the country to participate in saving electricity usage in order to decrease national budget expenditures,” the prime minister wrote.
According to the directive, government officials must set their air conditioner units to no lower than 25 degrees Celsius, and said air conditioners must be turned off 30 minutes before officials leave their offices.
All computers, printers and copy machines not in use are to be switched off, the directive states, adding that all non-air-conditioned offices must keep doors and windows open to make use of natural light.
The order also extends into the public sphere, mandating that only half of all streetlamps be illuminated, and then only when it is already dark out. It also tackles the issue of illegal connections to the electrical grid.
“The Ministry of Interior must cooperate with the Ministry of Industry in order to eliminate illegal electricity connections. The electricity providers must inform customers not to use excessive electricity-consuming equipment,” the directive states.
Ith Praing, secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said that the directive will help in the uphill battle to reduce electricity consumption.
“If all people conserve electricity, we can…save electricity for areas that lack it,” he said, but added that it was not possible at this time to predict the total savings in power and dollars.
However, Ith Praing added that there are so many government officials that it is going to be a challenge to get them all to manage their power usage properly.
“There is a weakness; there are too many hands,” he said.
The directive makes no mention of disciplinary measures to be taken against officials that do not comply with the order.
SRP President Sam Rainsy said by telephone Wednesday that Hun Sen would better preserve the state’s coffers if he took on government corruption, instead of government air conditioners.
“We don’t need a show directive,” Sam Rainsy said. “The cost of electricity cannot compare to corruption—this is just propaganda.”
He added that the decision to turn off streetlights could have an adverse effect on public safety.
EdC Director-General Tan Kim Van hung up on a reporter when asked about the prime minister’s directive.