Electricity Failure Leads to New Hydropower Projects in Cambodia
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Electricity Failure Leads to New Hydropower Projects in Cambodia 

Amidst the strain on the country’s electricity grid, which has led to nationwide electricity failure over a few weeks in the past, the Cambodian government on Friday approved the hydropower dam and solar energy plant projects in the country.

Cambodia is one of the few countries, which has the lowest access to electricity. However, there had been a huge rise in the electricity consumption by the country over the past decade. The average growth is of 20 percent per annum since the year 2010. However, there is a wide gap between regions when it comes to the usage of electricity. Almost all the urban population has access to electricity in comparison to the rural population, wherein only a miniscule part of the remnants is lucky enough to access it.

With the Mekong River flowing through the country, the hydropower will be the main source of energy accounting for more than 40 percent of total electricity generation. The US $231 million hydropower dam would be built as a part of a 39-year concession while the solar energy plants will be built as part of 20-year concessions and will cost US $58 million.

The Council of Ministers said SPHP (Cambodia) Co. Ltd. had been approved to invest in an 80-megawatt hydropower dam in Pursat province, while Cambodian firm SchneiTec Co. Ltd. was given permission to build three 60-megawatt solar energy plans in Pursat, Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Speu provinces.

The projects will help avoid power shortages in the country and will do little to alleviate widespread blackouts, which affects the ability of dams to generate power and lead to high levels of public consumption. It will also employ thousands of people during the construction of these projects. The Council of Ministers’ spokesperson Phay Siphan said that the hydropower projects could benefit Cambodia, “technically, economically, and socially”.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the government cancelled plans to lease a Turkish floating power plant, as they believed it would not arrive in time to alleviate the nation’s power shortages. Ty Norin, the secretary of the state at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said that Cambodia would also increase imports of electricity from Thailand from 120 megawatts to 200 megawatts, while Laos will deliver 50 megawatts instead of 40 megawatts. Thereby, the total will be 90 megawatts more than the original.

Despite the fact that the construction of the dam was the only solution as the grid has not been able to meet the supply demand of the people, there were many who believed that the government has ulterior motives behind the outages.

Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, founder of local environmental watchdog Mother Nature, was concerned about the construction of the dam as the past projects lacked transparency. He believed that government will use the project as an excuse to clear out the area and will destroy the forest in Pursat.

It is necessary that all the hydropower projects be conducted according to the procedures set out by the Ministry of Environment (MoE) and the findings of the EIA should be considered in the final decision. Government needs increased access to electricity for the benefit of its citizens, but it should not come at the expense of the environment.

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