Cambodia’s present total viable installed capacity is 97MW, Electricite du Cambodge Corporate Planning and Projects director Ty Norin told a Greater Mekong Subregion power meeting in December 1998. All this capacity is thermal and is located in Phnom Penh. However, as Cambodia continues to emerge from over two decades of war, hydro power has been identified as an increasingly important energy source.

Starting with immediate rehabilitation and construction of two small projects that were abandoned in the early 1970s, the country’s June 1998 energy master plan calls for hydro to generate over half the nation’s power by 2016. It contributes zero generation at present.

By 2016, Norin said total installed capacity is expected to grow to 746MW — most of this will be hydro located in the south and west of the country.

Phnom Penh will still dominate national power demand, consuming 484MW or 63% of total power, but a new transmission grid will link it to the dams. Some 10-20% of total power would be exported to Thailand.

In order of implementation hydro power projects to be developed up to 2016 include Kirirom, Prek Thnot, Stung Kamchay, Stung Mnan 2 and Stung Atay Diversion. Over the longer term, projects are also expected to be developed on the Xe Kong, Se San and Sre Pok tributaries of the Mekong in northeast Cambodia which would feed a 500kV transmission line to Thailand and Vietnam.

The 10MW Kirirom project, located some 100km southwest of Phnom Penh, was commissioned in 1968 but abandoned in 1972 when both its transmission lines to the capital were destroyed. The 18MW Prek Thnot project was about 20% complete in 1973 when work on it was abandoned. Both projects will be rehabilitated/completed as a top priority.

Meanwhile both Stung Kamchay (120km south of Phnom Penh) and Stung Mnan 2 (240km from the capital on Cambodia’s western border with Thailand) can be expected to be commissioned before 2010. Each project could have 100-150MW of installed capacity.

The Stung Mnan 2 transmission line to Phnom Penh would also serve initially to import power from Thailand and later, when the 300MW Stung Atay diversion to the east of Stung Mnan 2 is built, to export part of its power to Thailand. This project would come on stream after 2010. Power sales between Cambodia and Thailand have yet to be negotiated.

Cambodia’s first power sector strategy and a draft Electricity Law were due to be presented to the government at the start of this year. They will refine the broad plans outlined above.