Cambodia’s First Coal-Fired Power Station

Today, I am so happy to be in the province of Preah Sihanouk once again to put into official use the 100 MW coal fired station and, taking this opportune moment, to inaugurate from here the 230 KV power transmission line from Udong of Kompong Speu to the province of Kompong Cham. We may note together that this is the first Cambodian coal fired power station ever.  Just now, the Executive Director of Leader Company, Dato Seri H’ng Bok San, thanked our officials for taking their times to join this event. I think it is their pleasures to be here because Preah Sihanouk province and city is the tourist destination. My presence here today signifies a new achievement in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

I have followed attentively to the report of the Minister of Mines and Energy in relation to the general development of electricity in Cambodia but also the particular development in the case of the Leader Company. Dato Seri H’ng Bok San also mentioned about the presence of the Leader Company in the 1990s involvement in fuel-fired power generation in Phnom Penh’s Jak Angre electric station. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the efforts of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, which was formerly a part of the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy. In recent institutional reform effort, the former Ministry has divided into two – Ministry of Industry and Handicraft and Ministry of Mines and Energy. The Cambodian National Petroleum Authority is now also under the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

My sincere appreciation and thanks to every level of involvements – the Cambodian Development Council, Ministry of Economy and Finance, the National Assembly, the Senate and HM the King for approving this huge and long term investment project. I think that has facilitated the smooth project implementation and given the company confidence. I also thank the Leader Company for its many involvements in the Cambodian development according to the principle of cooperation between the government of Malaysia and the Royal Government of Cambodia.

I worked on many occasions with Prime Ministers of Malaysia – Mahathir Mohamad, Adullah Ahmad Badawi and currently Najib Razak – to see Malaysian investors coming to do business in the Kingdom of Cambodia. In the past week, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education of Malaysia was here in Cambodia to discuss about human resource development and trade and investment issues between Malaysia and Cambodia.

Hydro and Coal Generated Power – Complementary

I am very happy that the construction of this power station has given us the chance to deal with shortage of electricity last year, when Phnom Penh was short of 40 MW power in the dry season. The dry season’s lower water level in the hydropower station at Komjai lower power supply to between 50 or 60 MW from its usual 193 MW power generation. As the coal-fired power station was not ready then, we had a shortage of 40 MW of electricity for Phnom Penh. We had to inform the Phnom Penh dwellers of the need to regulate power outages in various locations. In the old day, Phnom Penh consumed about 30 MW of electricity. In the present day, Phnom Penh consumes 400 MW of electricity, about ten times the past. Is it not a real development?

In March, we are going to put into official operation the 120 MW hydropower station of Atai and I emphasize on the report of Minister of Mines and Energy, HE Suy Sem, that with many hydropower stations, we will have plenty of power in the rainy season but we must anticipate reduced supply in the dry season. Take for instance, the Komjai hydropower that provided only 50 or 60 MW from its 100 MW capacity. This clearly indicates that there needs to have a combination of power supply generated by water and other fuel sources. We also have more investments for the coal-fired power generation. We are expecting to have a combined generation from coal of 1,000 MW in this area. Roughly, by next year, we may have over 400 MW power generated in the area.

This has brought us to a progress in the effort to attract private sector to participate in infrastructural investment, whereby four areas of priority has been focused on since 1987 – water, road, power and human resource. For the recent stage of development, we need to alternate the four priorities to – human resource, water, road and electricity. We have now made human resource the first priority.

Those Who Only Speak Gets Acclaimed, a Short-term Change, Though

Some are good at speaking only. Those who do the job are nailed but those who only speak are acclaimed. That is quite a change. However, I would call that a short-term change. Let me clarify that those who do the job have to figure out everything. Take for instance, the 107 million USD investments by the Leader Company in the 100 Km transmission line from Phnom Penh to Kompong Cham, if we were to have no power to transmit when it is ready, there would be a cost to pay. I would then seek understanding from members of the National Assembly and the Senate when it comes to debate on relevant issue. It is easy to just wag one’s tongue and reap the acclamation. We have relentless effort to attract investors to generate power for the country’s need.

In this case, we had to talk the Government of Malaysia to encourage Malaysian company to come to Cambodia. Dato Seri H’ng Bok San even mentioned in his report just now about the need to go into loan from four banks, Maybank also included. We have done all the necessary jobs until we are getting to a stage where people residing along the National Road 3 can now pay 1050 Riel per kWh instead of between 2,000 and 3,000 Riel per kWh. This is the real fact, the truth. However, there are people who reap the acclamation for promising you to lower the price of electricity to 600 Riel per kWh without basing on fact if they can really do that. They make promises for votes and there are instances that they reap the applause over the Royal Government’s true effort.

Factory Closing, Demonstrators Should Look to Instigators

The same is true for the garment factories. We have tried to create a favorable condition so that investors would come do business in Cambodia. Many moved their factories from high cost labor country to Cambodia where labor cost is affordable. We have done so many things to make sure the cost of production would be favorable to those investors and they in return had to increase minimum pay and other benefits for our workers. Despites all these, we are now disfavored and those who make empty promise of high salary are acclaimed. In fact, the workers’ salary in Cambodia is high in comparison to Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Laos and even Myanmar.

We will wait and see. Any factories close because of demonstration or salary strike, workers would then demand those instigators to find them jobs. We need to ask because of whom they lose their jobs. As for power generation here today, we are looking to the prospect of lower cost power transmission, the benefit of which would contribute to subscription of lower cost power by those factories, which would then increase their profit margins and share them with their workers. These are complementary factors and one aspect would have a covering effect on another. They have made their promises beyond actual ability to implement them. If it were possible to do otherwise, we would have done it already.

More Power Investments Needed

We are facing with a challenging task of generating more power. In the report of HE Suy Sem, we have been implementing numerous on-going projects with a combined production of over 2,000 MW. We also have to match the power production to the demand for power. We need to continue to attract investment in developing more power stations – hydro, clean coal-fired, renewable, and solar or other sources, waste burning also included. With regard to waste burning source for power generation, I would advice serious consideration and study not to allow requesting party to use Cambodia as its dumping ground, as there was in 1991 and 1996.

In 1991, there was a request to implement that project on one of the islands in Preah Sihanouk province and they would give in supplement 20 million USD in addition to generating power for us from burning wastes they would bring in. In 1996, the same request came again. In 1997, a delegation came to see me in Takhmao convincing me of their latest technology to generate electricity from waste. I still upheld my objection and the World Health Organization supported my stance. However, when talking about burning local wastes to generate power, maybe it is worth considering too because we have tremendous wastes every day. We still should not play with it if the study suggests any serious harm to the environment.

In this world, some countries have even opted for nuclear power plants, while some of them criticized Cambodia for developing its hydropower plants. They blame our hydropower projects for causing so and so destruction to the environment, while in their country, each nuclear power plant could, if any accident occurs, have ravaged human life and long-term destruction to the world. In my conversation with a diplomat, I said I heard people talk about powerful person abuse those who are less powerful or the poor. I agree completely. However, in this whole world, I also note that only the rich countries that are tormenting the poorer ones and never vice versa. The powerful ones threaten to fight, impose sanction, suspend or cut aid, etc. Have you ever seen any poor countries do all that?

Three Kinds of Transmission Line

In the forthcoming time, we must make further efforts to achieve our goal in matching supply of power to the increasing demand. That would be the first endeavor for the time coming. Secondly, we also have to speed up the connection of transmission lines of three categories. First, it is the national transmission line that HE Suy Sem reported to us that we have achieved it in 13 provinces already. We have main power line but we are still lacking distribution lines in other provinces. For power generated in Preah Sihanouk province, we have to use transmission line from here to Kompot, on National Road 3 through Takeo, Kompong Speu and Kandal provinces to get to Phnom Penh. From there, it connects to the transmission line to Kompong Cham province, Kompong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Banteay Meanjei and Siemreap.

I think that we should have another line on the National Road 4. If we have any problem on the main transmission line along the National Road 3, we can depend on the alternative line to swap power through. We should also look into the possibility to have a power line connected from Kompong Thom to Skun of Kompong Cham. This should serve as alternate power source if the power supply through Si Siphon of Banteay Meanjei could not get through to Siemreap. In that case, we can alternate power supply to the source from Kompong Cham via Kompong Thom to cover the demand in Siemreap.

Secondly, the sub-transmission line, for which we have allocated funding – that of the Electricite du Cambodge and of the state – to build more sub-transmission line to bring power to distribution lines in the local areas. There has been growing demand for power to reach local level in order to replace the high-cost electricity provided currently by private generators. When the power is in Kompong Cham, it is important that we distribute them to every district. Therefore, power line from Phnom Penh provides electricity to the districts of Tbong Khmum or Kroch Chmar.

Thirdly, we have to make sure of the connection transmission line with neighboring countries. We already have one major line from Vietnam connected to Cambodia that provides first 170 MW and now augmented to 200 MW. We have eight smaller connected lines via Jrey Thom of Kandal from Vietnam too. With Thailand, we have a major transmission line of 120 MW through Poi Pet city to Battambang and Siemreap. We also need to work with Laos to get connected line between Pakse of Laos and Stoeng Treng of Cambodia. From there, we can connect to Preah Vihear too.

Rights for Demonstration and Youth Volunteers

As of now any demonstration happens, there would be two of them – the one that opposes (the Royal Government of Cambodia) and the one that supports. They all have equal rights. They always talk about will of the people, so be it. On the supporting side also has the will of the people. We also have the rights to rally. As Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, I must guarantee their safety and rights to rally. If both sides ask to demonstrate in the Democratic Square, the Municipality of Phnom Penh should be ready to divide the square into two parts. If you allow one, you should do the same for the other, or none to both. I do not act like what the President of Venezuela did. He called on his supporters to come out. I do not do so. I just guarantee everybody the equal right.

Today it is also a good chance that I meet with the cadastre officials as well as youth volunteers who have to come here to finish their works after they had a break during the 2013 Khmer New Year. I would urge you to finish here what you have to do according to our plan. We have only a small number of youth volunteers now because the work is getting smaller on the one side and about 600 of them have joined the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction already./.