Guangming Online

China-constructed hydroelectric stations ensure reliable, secured electricity at affordable price for Cambodians

by Xie Meihua, Yi Ling and Xue Lei

KOH KONG, Cambodia, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- After about a seven-hour drive from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh in a recent field trip, Xinhua journalists came to the deep jungle in Mondol Sima district of southwestern Koh Kong province where the lower Stung Russei Chrum hydropower station, one of the six hydroelectric stations which are constructed by China and all now in operation, is located.

Within the framework of China's Belt and Road Initiative, the hydroelectric station, which was built by giant power company China Huadian Corp and began operation in January 2015 after nearly five years of construction, has been harvesting early results, contributing to Cambodia's socio-economic development, promoting the country's energy safety and improving the livelihood of the Cambodian people.

LARGEST HYDROELECTRIC PLANT SO FAR IN CAMBODIA

The lower Stung Russei Chrum hydroelectric station comprises two dams, with the upper having a height of 125 meters and the lower 59 meters.

With a total installed capacity of 338 MW and a designed annual output of 1.2 billion KWH, the hydroelectric station is the largest of its kind so far in Cambodia.

Recalling the construction of the station, Le Jianhua, general manager and senior engineer of China Huadian Lower Stung Russei Chrum Hydroelectric Project (Cambodia) Company Limited, told Xinhua in an interview that his team had experienced the toughest challenges and difficulties in the construction process such as the hot and humid weather condition, molest of mosquitoes, leeches, poisonous snakes and bears, threat by unexploded mines, infection of malaria and dengue fever as well as isolation from the outside world and loneliness, among others.

"Thanks to the team spirit, it only took about five years to complete the construction of the station, a miracle project that surprised the Cambodian government and the foreign counterparts in the hydroelectric sector," Le said proudly.

"The project, constructed at the cost of 578 million U.S. dollars, has become a model known for its low cost, fast speed, high quality and standard."

Under a contract of a 30-year build-operate-transfer (BOT) with the Cambodian government, the station will generate power of about 1.2 billion KWH per year. The electricity is sold to the state-owned Electricity of Cambodia at the price of 7.35 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour, a price which is much lower than the electricity Cambodia imports from neighboring Thailand and Vietnam, benefiting Cambodian households and businesses, the general manager said.

The electricity imported from Thailand and Vietnam stands at about 12 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour.

The hydroelectric station has also promoted the inter-connectivity in the region, Le said.

"Huadian built a concrete road of 45 km leading to the deep jungle before the construction of the hydropower station. The road, dubbed now as a "provincial highway" by locals, has connected the isolated area with the rest of the Koh Kong province and made it easier for the movement of people and goods."

The concrete road has also driven the development of local economy, Le said. "The small rubber plantation along the road has been growing larger and larger in the past years as it facilitates the transportation of rubber harvested from the plantation."

CREATING JOBS AND PROVIDING LOCALS WITH ELECTRICITY AT AFFORDABLE PRICE

General manager Le said the hydroelectric station had created about 2,000 jobs, both directly and indirectly, for the locals, and currently there are about 100 Cambodians working in the station who maintain and repair equipment or serve as translators and drivers.

Heng Hongly is a translator serving as a bridge between the Chinese technicians at the hydroelectric station and the power distribution coordinators of the Cambodian side in Phnom Penh and others places. Born in southern province of Takeo, the 22-year old young man has been working at the hydroelectric station for more than one year.

Heng told Xinhua in an interview that he was lucky enough to be hired by the hydroelectric station for his capability of speaking Chinese.

As his family could not afford university bill, he, after graduation from high school, came to Phnom Penh in January 2012 to learn Chinese at a temple at the cost of 30 U.S. dollars per month. "I became a mockery of my friends when I told them that I was learning Chinese in the capital."

"My mother runs a small business to support the family and the money she earned did not come easily. I vowed to learn Chinese as hard as I can."

"I think I was born under a lucky star. I was woken up one morning by a call from my friend who had already been working in the China-constructed hydroelectric station. He informed me that the station was still hunting for a Cambodian who can speak Chinese. I filed my CV immediately and got the positive response."

Heng said he was paid with a salary quite enough to help his mother support the family.

With calm personality, the young man also told Xinhua that his family has benefited a lot from the China-constructed hydroelectric stations.

"Before having access to the electricity generated from China-constructed hydroelectric stations, my family usually spent at least 20 U.S. dollars per month for the electricity imported from Vietnam, a big burden for my family. The lights at my home would not be turned on until night falls completely. I was allowed to watch TV for only one hour each day."

"After connected with the electricity generated from China-constructed hydroelectric stations, My family now only pays five U.S. dollars for electricity per month. There have been no limits in using electricity ever since. We use electricity for illumination and cooking. We can watch TV whenever we want," Heng added.

CHINA-CONSTRUCTED HYDROELECTRIC STATIONS PROMOTE ENERGY SAFETY IN CAMBODIA

Electricity shortage is one of the most serious constraints to Cambodia's efforts to develop national economy and attract new foreign investments, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank said in a report late in 2014.

The report also said electricity in Cambodia is "not only more expensive than most neighboring countries, but the supply is also intermittent."

A power cut in Vietnam caused a blackout of nearly an hour across Cambodia in November 2015. The blackout occurred when the Cambodian people were enjoying the last night of the three-day Water Festival holiday.

In an recent interview with Xinhua, Suy Sem, Cambodian minister of mines and energy, said the six hydroelectric plants built by China had produced a total of 928 MW of electricity, representing 47 percent of the electricity available in Cambodia.

"Currently, Cambodia has a total electrical energy of 1,985.6 MW, supplying to factories, enterprises and houses. To date, 72 percent of the Kingdom's villages have access to electricity."

"The hydropower plants have provided a lot of advantages such as reducing the import of petroleum for oil-fueled power plants, creating independence in electrical energy for our country, and lowering the prices of electricity, " the minister said.

"Previously, we depended mainly on the imports of electricity from our neighboring countries. Now we have our own. In the past, we relied on the oil-fueled electricity so the price was very expensive. But since we have hydroelectric plants, the price is appropriate and fixed."

Hydropower plants also help to reduce the impacts on environment because the hydropower dams are the source of clean energy, the minister added.

[ Editor: Zhang Zhou ]