A Japanese company announced plans on Monday to build a coal-powered electrical plant in Preah Sihanouk province, mere months after Cambodia ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change that seeks to reduce global carbon emissions.
Tokyo-based Toshiba Plant Systems and Services said in a statement that it would build the 150-megawatt coal-fired power generator in Sihanoukville for Malaysian-owned Cambodian Energy II by November 2019 and sell the electricity to state-run energy company Electricite du Cambodge.
The estimated cost of the plant was not disclosed and Toshiba could not be reached for comment.
Earlier this month, the Council of Ministers voted to expand the capacity of Cambodian Energy’s existing coal-fired plant in Preah Sihanouk. The expansion from 50 MW to 185 MW will indefinitely delay the construction of a contentious hydropower dam in Koh Kong province’s Areng Valley.
Southeast Asian countries have increasingly turned to coal-fired plants, which require less operational know-how than nuclear generators, said Stephen Higgins, managing partner for Mekong Strategic Partners, an investment firm and corporate consultant.
“In the long run, and by that I mean beyond ten years, coal is unlikely to be competitive against renewables, and that’s before you take into account any regulatory impacts arising from the Paris climate accord,” Mr. Higgins said in an email.
Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, an activist with environmental NGO Mother Nature, said the project contradicts both international consensus about coal-fired power’s damaging environmental effects and the U.N. climate agreement ratified by Cambodia in November.
“Since most Cambodians have never been exposed to any kind of meaningful information about these impacts, the government thinks [it] can get away with furtively going ahead with this kind of project,” Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson said via email.
Neither the Industry, Mines and Energy Ministry nor Electricite du Cambodge could be reached for comment.