Power Outages Return To Phnom Penh

Reminiscent of last year’s months of rolling blackouts, parts of Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh, Russei Keo, Prampi Makara and Chamkarmon districts were in the dark for several hours Wed­nesday night due to an electricity shortage, an Electricity du Cam­bodge official said Thursday.

And it’s lining up to be a sticky hot season again as government of­ficials say the power shortage will be a regular feature of Phnom Penh life for at least the next two years.

Only 130 megawatts of electricity are available for Phnom Penh, which currently requires about 170 megawatts of electricity each day, said Chea Sunhel, director of distribution for the state-owned EdC.

EdC intentionally severed the power supply to the four city districts and has plans to continue doing so in different sections of Phnom Penh at varying times throughout the hot season, Chea Sunhel said.

The city will continue to experience a daily 40 megawatt shortage for the next two years, said Ith Praing, secretary of state for the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy.

The ministry had planned for a 20 percent increase in the demand for electricity in Phnom Penh and Kandal province, but in fact the demand has gone up nearly 50 percent, he said.

“We made a mistake in our planning,” Ith Praing said.

“The growth of the city is unbelievable and there is no end in sight,” he added. “Even with all the power plants running, it is still not sufficient,” Ith Praing said.

Ith Praing asked residents to be patient with power outages and to conserve energy when possible.

“I think the only solution for now is to save electricity by not using too much,” he said. “Let’s turn off air conditioners that are not necessary during hot season.”

After months of power cuts in 2006, Phnom Penh added more than 90 megawatts to its supply of electricity with the addition of Khmer Electrical Power, owned by CPP senator tycoon Phu Kok An, and Cambodia Electricity Power owned by tycoon Ly Yong Phat, who is also a CPP senator. EdC supplies 50 megawatts and the remaining 30 come from Malaysian-owned Power Plant CUPL.

Broken generators are another part of the problem, said Tan Kim Vin, EdC director general.

Two out of six generators at CEP are experiencing technical difficulties, said Lap Lay, the assistant owner to Ly Yong Phat, and one of KEP’s six generators in Meanchey district is in need of repair, Phu Kok An said.

“If my factory had all its generators running, it still wouldn’t be enough supply for the demand,” Phu Kok An added.

Ith Praing said he hopes electricity shortages will be a thing of the past come 2009, when Cambodia is expected to link up to Vietnam’s power grid which should provide cheaper and more reliable power supplies to much of the country.

Sun Seng Huot, municipal director of industry, mines and energy, said the city’s many beautification projects are likely putting an extra strain on the already inadequate power supply.

“The city has constructed a lot of streets and lamp posts this year. So, there is a high demand for electricity in Phnom Penh’s parks and streets,” he said.

Mak Chan, a 45-year-old mother of three who operates a small restaurant in Daun Penh district, said her clients got up and left as soon as the power went out Wednesday night.

“If there is no power even for one night,” she said, “the seafood and meat in my freezer will spoil.”

Say Seng Ly, director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Hospital, said his hospital has its own generator on standby for power outages.

“A hospital without electricity is disastrous,” he said.

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