Electricity Provider Warns of Dry-Season Power Cuts

The national electricity provider has warned residents in Phnom Penh and in Kompong Speu and Kandal provinces to expect power outages in the coming months as supply would likely fall short of demand throughout the dry season. 

In a statement issued Friday, Electricite du Cambodge (EdC) said that from the beginning of this month until June 2013, it would be unable to meet the demand for energy, though it offered no explanation for the power shortage.

“In this situation, EdC hopes people will understand that there is not enough power for 24 hours a day,” the statement said.

An EdC official, who said he was not authorized to speak with the media, explained that the Chinese-built Kamchay and Kirirom hydropower dams, in Kampot and Kompong Speu provinces respectively, would be short of water during these months and therefore not producing as much power as during the wet season.

The official said the affected areas would be split up into sections running on different schedules. Some places will be without power in the morning, some in the afternoon and others at night, he said.

“The most important areas, where there are ministries or major roads, will not be cut off,” he said, adding that by mid-2013,  more hydropower projects would be online and the shortages would cease.

But to the dismay of local businesses, the warning signals a likely repeat of last year, when Phnom Penh endured long periods of the day without electricity.

“We worry that if the power blacks out, then customers will leave because they can’t stand the heat. Our restaurant needs to use air conditioners all the time to keep it cool,” said Dav Voeun, a manager at Brown Coffee and Bakery on Street 214. He said using a generator to fill in the gaps was too expensive.

“I think when the energy is not consistent, it is disturbing our operations,” said Luu Meng, president of the Cambodian Hotel Association and the proprietor of a number of high-end Phnom Penh restaurants.

He said that customers would receive a lower level of service during blackouts and that equipment, like freezers, would also cut out, leading to food safety hazards.

Municipality spokesman Long Dimanche said he was unaware of the announcement but that governor Kep Chuktema had a meeting with EdC scheduled for today.

“Of course it will affect business if the power is cut off,” he said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said there was little the government could do about the outages, but that the long-term hydropower-dam-building efforts would kick in eventually.

“We can’t do anything now. We’re just waiting for that power from hydropower,” he said.

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