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.