Electricity supply

Electricity was introduced to Cambodia at the beginning of the last century under the French colonial administration. Today electricity is provided by a number of different organizations using many different systems, standards and levels of quality. The largest single supplier is the government-owned Electricite du Cambodge (EDC). The country's total installed generating capacity is estimated at about 411MW, with the approximate breakdown shown in Figure 11.1 and Table 11.1.

Table 11.1 Electricity suppliers in Cambodia


Areas supplied

Installed capacity3

Annual generation

Electricite du Cambodge (EDC)

Phnom Penh plus 11 provincial towns (MIME, 2004)4



Independent power producers (IPPs) selling to EDC

Phnom Penh and Kampong Cham (EDC, 2003)



Provincial electricity operators (provincial offices of MIME)

Two provincial towns (NEDO, 2002)


5.1 GWh

Rural electricity enterprises (REE) operating mini-grids

Four provincial towns and hundreds of smaller towns and villages (estimated 600 REEs) (Hundley, 2003)


No data available

Battery-charging services (REEs which do not also operate a mini-grid)

1500 battery-charging services (REEs) in hundreds of towns (Hundley, 2003)5


No data available

Imported power from Thailand and Vietnam (22kV lines)

11 border towns (Hundley, 2003)


No data available

Private standby diesel generation (large scale only)

All areas, but mainly Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (Hundley, 2003)


175.0GWh (NEDO, 2002)



Source: compiled by author from various sources

Source: compiled by author from various sources

Cambodians consume on average about 55kWh per year per person, among the region's lowest rates of power consumption.

The government's electricity system consists of 24 small, isolated power systems with no transmission link between load centres. This system only reaches about 20 per cent of the population, most of them in Phnom Penh. The peak demand for EDC customers in Phnom Penh in 2003 was approximately 120MW which represents almost 70 per cent of EDC's total load and about 29 per cent of the estimated total supply capacity in the country. The peak load across all the main provincial towns is about 50MW. There were critical power supply shortages in Phnom Penh in 2004 during the dry season, February to April, when cooling loads are at their peak. This resulted in frequent rolling blackouts across the city as EDC was forced to temporarily disconnect suburbs in order to balance the system.

Electricity costs in Cambodia range from US$0.09 per kWh to US$0.53 per kWh for government services, and can be much higher for small private services or battery-charging services (Hundley, 2003). As shown in Figure 11.2, Cambodia

Imports from Thailand and Vietnam

MIME Provincial Departments

Electricity du Cambodge (EDC)

MIME Provincial Departments

Electricity du Cambodge (EDC)

IPPs selling to EDC

Rural Electricity Enterprises (REE) Battery-Charging Services

Private stand by diesel sets

Source: Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, Phnom Penh

Figure 11.1 Chart of electricity suppliers by installed generating capacity

IPPs selling to EDC

Rural Electricity Enterprises (REE) Battery-Charging Services

Private stand by diesel sets

Source: Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, Phnom Penh

Figure 11.1 Chart of electricity suppliers by installed generating capacity has the highest electricity prices of any ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) country. This figure shows official government tariffs and excludes the higher prices of small private operators.

EDC charges a 'social tariff' of 350 Riels per kWh, which is intended to provide affordable power to its low-income, low-consumption customers.6 This tariff has not been changed since 1995, when it was equivalent to US$0.13 per kWh. Due to depreciation of the Riel, the social tariff is now equivalent to about US$0.09 per kWh which is equal to the estimated average cost of production for EDC. However, this tariff does not cover distribution and retailing costs. In addition, EDC's costs are highly sensitive to exchange rate fluctuations since fuel and equipment purchases are incurred in US dollars. Therefore, it is clear that the social tariff is being cross-subsidized by other customers.

Source: ASEAN Centre for Energy www.aseanenergy.org

Figure 11.2 Electricity tariffs in ASEAN countries for September 2003

This cross-subsidy has some undesirable effects. First, it does not assist most of Cambodia's poor because most of them do not live in areas of the country with access to the EDC grid. Second, it acts as a disincentive to improved energy efficiency by providing power below the real cost of production and distribution. And third, it creates a barrier to the development of other sources of power that are not subsidized, such as renewable energy technologies.

It is ironic that, despite the social tariff, some of the poorest of Cambodia's urban population pay some of the highest tariffs in the country. This is because the existing laws governing EDC's power sales prevent it from retailing power to people who do not hold legal tenure over the property they occupy. A large proportion of Cambodia's poor lack legal rights to the land they live on either because they cannot afford it and are forced to squat on the land, or because property rights are still unsettled following the end of many years of conflict. In these cases, neighbouring property owners are known to purchase power from EDC at the standard tariff and then sell it on to slum-dwellers at inflated rates. While no data are available, anecdotal evidence suggests that these tariffs can be over 1000 Riels (26 US cents) per kWh, higher even than the highest official EDC tariff which foreigners must pay.

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