Hydropower Plant Shutdown Reawakens Debate

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Monday that the re­cent shut­down of Kompong Speu prov­ince’s Kirirom hydro­power plant for the dry season validates appre­hen­sions raised by Fun­cin­pec and Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers in 2000 that the project would be wasteful.

Phnom Penh is suffering a pow­er shortage following the cessation of operations at the 11-meg­a­watt power plant earlier this month, due to annual water shortages, and repairs to two generators in Phnom Penh that supplied 10 megawatts.

“This is the thing that we have warned the government from the beginning,” Son Chhay said of the Kirirom power plant.

“It was supposed to provide year-round power,” he said.

Numerous problems with the plant were anticipated in 2000, in­cluding shoddy construction, high cost of electricity and a requirement that the government guarantee payments to the investment company, Chinese Electricity Tech­nology Import & Export Corp­oration, Son Chhay said.

He added that an $11 million pro­ject proposed by a European company in the mid-1990s was re­jected in favor of the $25 million Chi­nese bid for the power plant.

Bun Narith, deputy general di­rector of the Ministry of Indus­try’s hydroelectricity department, de­fended the deal with the Chi­nese firm, saying $10 million was needed at the time to repair the power plant and $15 million to in­stall pow­er lines running to Phnom Penh.

“In 1994, Sweden and Austria were planning to give us a grant for the dam, but in 1995 security de­ter­i­orated in the country, so they stop­ped their plan,” Bun Narith said.

“We got CITEC to do the project without bidding from other companies because nobody else bid,” he said.

Industry Ministry Secretary of State Ith Praing said that climate change may have reduced the amount of water feeding the plant.

“When we have water, we have electricity,” Ith Praing said.

CITEC and the government are researching the possibility of an upstream reservoir that could re­lease water at the end of the rainy season and beginning of the dry season to extend the annual period in which the plant functions, Ith Praing said.


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