The government plans to sign a deal with Thailand to purchase electricity in hopes it can provide more affordable power to people in three northwestern provinces as well as to businesses in the expanding provincial tourism sector.
Cambodia is seeking a 12-year contract through two agreements that would include the purchase of power and a joint-venture project to install power lines from the Thai border to Siem Reap, said Ith Praing, secretary of state for the Ministry of Mines, Industry and Energy. The plan also includes a $2 million hydroelectric plant.
“The deal will bring electricity at a cheaper price to Banteay Meanchey, Battambang and Siem Reap provinces,” Ith Praing said.
Users in Thai border provinces pay about $0.05 per kilowatt-hour, but Electricite du Cambodge, Cambodia’s state-owned power company, would buy power for about $0.10 per kilowatt-hour, Ith Praing said.
“It is higher than the energy price in Thailand, but lower than the energy price in Phnom Penh,” he said. “Provincial users, despite their living conditions, will be able to afford it.”
The higher prices will help cover the cost of stringing the power lines from the border, he said.
Much of Cambodia’s rural population still depends on costly independent power providers, which use generators or long rows of car batteries to provide electricity.
The government has been looking towards Vietnam and Thailand for cheaper energy sources. Kompong Cham province will soon be receiving power from Vietnam.
Opposition lawmakers have long criticized EdC for poor management of the nation’s power needs and the donor money it receives. Despite $190 million in aid and loans, rural Cambodia remains largely off any power grid. Electricity prices in the provinces are often three or four times higher than in Phnom Penh.
Consultants have estimated it will take $1.14 billion and 30 years to bring reliable power to just 70 percent of the country. The Siem Reap power project is scheduled to be fully operational by 2003.
In Siem Reap town, where the cost for power is about $0.40 per kilowatt-hour, about 60 percent of the population has electricity. A boom in the tourism industry has brought new hotels, but most of them rely on generators, said Pich Sokhin, third deputy governor of Siem Reap province.
“Siem Reap is one province where it is necessary to build a power plant to serve the tourism industry,” he said.