Since the 246-megawatt Stung Tatai Dam in Koh Kong province went online in mid-August, all of the electricity it has produced has gone unused, costing the government an estimated $74 million in lost revenue so far, according to government and company officials.
Ith Praing, secretary of state at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said electricity produced by the Chinese-built hydropower dam “has not been distributed” because the area lacks the required infrastructure.
Mr. Praing said the government is attempting to secure hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of loans in order to construct a power grid.
“We already have a plan to build a power grid to distribute the electricity to the rural areas, but we don’t want the plans to be implemented by the private sector,” he said. “We want the state to do it, because if the plan is implemented by the private sector, it would cost more.”
Mr. Praing said the government would, however, allow private companies to build small-scale power lines to distribute electricity from the proposed grid to customers’ homes.
“As soon as we have money from lenders, we can start to implement the plan,” he said, adding that a plan for the grid has been submitted to the Finance Ministry for approval.
But despite what Mr. Praing said is the government’s preference to keep the project public, it is not rejecting private bids.
China’s Tebian Electric Apparatus (TBEA) submitted a proposal early last month to the Mines and Energy Ministry to build the power grid, said Hong Mong Heng, president of the Brightway Group, which represents TBEA in the country.
Mr. Mong Heng said the Export-Import Bank of China, which works closely with TBEA, has already informed the Cambodian government it is willing to lend up to $2 billion for the project, at less than 2 percent interest per year.
He added that Brightway and other representatives of TBEA have already met with Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem to discuss the project.
“Now we are just waiting for the response from the ministry,” he said.
According to Brightway vice president Chea Sitha, TBEA’s plan would see a total of 353 km of power lines built in Koh Kong, Battambang, Siem Reap and Kompong Cham provinces at a cost of $350 million.
Mr. Sitha estimated the government has so far lost about $74 million of revenue because it is unable to sell the dam’s electricity.
China National Heavy Machinery Corporation began building the Stung Tatai dam in 2010 at an estimated cost of $540 million.
China is the largest investor in hydroelectric dams in Cambodia, having spent $1.6 billion to produce a combined capacity of 828MW, according to data from the Mines and Energy Ministry and China’s state news agency, Xinhua.