Power Access Spreads But Reliability Problem Persists

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Access to grid electricity has expanded to 71.5 percent of households but the reliability of power supplies can be improved, the World Bank says in its latest report, released yesterday.

Grid users still experience major fluctuations around the country. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The bank says nearly two-thirds of households with access to the grid face frequent power shortages.

The report, called “Cambodia Beyond Connections: The Energy Access Diagnostic Based on a Multi-Tier Framework”, looks at, among other factors, the capacity, reliability, affordability and safety of the country’s energy sector.

“Nationwide, nearly 90 percent of Cambodian households have access to at least four hours of electricity a day,” the report says.

It says that 30 percent of rural households rely on off-grid power for electricity, including solar home systems, solar lanterns, and rechargeable batteries.

“With improvement to transmission and distribution systems, as well as promotion of expanded grid connections and solar home systems, Cambodia will strengthen the potential of its economy,” the report says.

Energy was critical for enhancing industrial competitiveness that created more jobs, said Inguna Dobraja, World Bank country manager for Cambodia.

“It also improved public services that broaden opportunities – leading to a better quality of life for all Cambodians,” she said.

“Cambodia is the first country in the East Asia and Pacific region to carry out the Multi-Tier Framework (MTF) survey, which offers detailed household data on energy that will strengthen policy-making for the energy sector.” Ms Dobraja said.

Rutu Dave, World Bank energy specialist, said access to energy was crucial for socio-economic development. She said the survey would provide more nuanced data on energy access both in terms of electricity and cooking, which captures both quantitative and qualitative aspects of energy access in Cambodia.

She said MTF helped participating countries to identify country-specific goals, informing policy and financial decisions, tracking energy service progress, enabling energy data study and energy and global systems analysis.

She said it was a global survey to cover 17 high access deficit countries. MTF surveys have been completed in 11 countries and are continuing in six countries. Cambodia is one of the countries to have completed the survey.

“The use of MTF is to drive policy and investment choices. The MTF survey provides details of energy at the household level that can be used by governments, development partners and service providers,” she said.

According to the report, the greatest challenges is reliability (outages) and quality (voltage fluctuation) of grid electricity supply.

It said that more than half of grid electrified households experienced over 14 outages per week – on average for about 6 minutes.

Also, 33 percent of grid users said they experienced major voltage fluctuations. Reliability and quality issues were more severe among rural grid-connected households.

The report added that seven percent of Cambodian households needed to spend more than five percent of their household expenditure on electricity costs to consume only 365kWh per year.

However, if affordability is viewed based on the actual electricity consumption, the survey results show that more than one third of urban households using the grid electricity spent more than five percent of their monthly budget on electricity.

Ty Norin, chairman of Electricity Authority of Cambodia (EAC), said Cambodia had made rapid progress in increasing access to electricity for villages and consumers, but progress had been achieved at a cost.

“It is time now to turn our attention to strengthening the reliability and quality of electricity supply, which would enable families and businesses to flourish,” Mr Norin said.

“Starting on April 1, the Electricity Authority of Cambodia will continue to bring down the cost of electricity for households and enterprises in Phnom Penh and a number of provinces,” Mr Norin said.

He said that in Phnom Penh and Takhmao, households that consumed more than 201kWh per month would see tariffs reduced from 770 riel ($0.19) to 750 riel ($0.18) per kWh. However, for families that used less than 50 kWh, the price would remain unchanged at 610 riel ($0.15) per kWh.

For commercial and industrial enterprises operating in the capital and in Takhmao, the cost of electricity will also fall.

For example, medium-sized enterprises that use EDC’s transformers will see tariffs go from 718 riel ($0.1790) to 717 riel ($0.1786) per kWh.

According to EAC’s annual report, the amount of energy produced in the kingdom has increased 11.4 times in the last 15 years.

In 2017, total energy output was 2,283MW, up from 2,115MW in 2016.

With seven hydropower plants fully operational by the end of 2018, the report forecast that total energy output will be 1,329MW, of which 538MW will come from coal power plants, 251MW from fossil fuel power stations, and 72MW from renewable energy sources and 10MW from domestic energy supplies.

This article was originally published in the Khmer Times.