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Energy

Photo by Miran Rijavec / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Electric wires. Photo by Miran Rijavec, taken 6 June 2004. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Energy is about more than just electricity. It includes all means used to provide energy for industrial and domestic purposes, from firewood for cooking to national electricity production.

This section focuses on the production, distribution and use of electrical power. Activities involving the exploration, extraction and refining of oil and gas are described in the extractive industries section.

Cambodia has undergone rapid economic development in recent decades. However, the country still lacks the infrastructure required for the energy sector to match the pace of development. Energy security facilitates a country’s socio-economic growth and sustainability. Energy supply and access is fundamental to achieving developmental goals.1 As the population increases and industry expands, Cambodia’s electricity consumption is forecast to grow annually at 9.4% until 2020.2

In 2014, the government made ‘electricity access for [all] Cambodian villages by 2020’ a top priority in the fifth mandate.3 To achieve this goal, laws and policy on development of the energy sector were adopted, while cooperation and participation from stakeholders including ministries and other governmental agencies, development partners and private investors have also played an important role.

The key challenges facing Cambodia’s energy sector are:

  • Heavy dependence on imported fossil fuels and imported electricity.

  • Low electrical grid coverage in rural areas.

  • Electricity shortages and power outages are relatively common.

  • Popular power generation options — such as hydropower and coal-fired stations—can have high environmental impact.

Most of the electricity generated within Cambodia has in the past come from heavy fuel oil and diesel generators—as recently as March 2011, 90% of power was produced in this way.4 

Cambodia is totally reliant on imports for oil and gas, despite commercial quantities of oil being found offshore. Many licenses have been granted for exploration of oil and gas blocks. In 2013 Cambodia used around 47,000 barrels of petroleum a day.5 Due to a high dependence on imported fuel and a fragmented power supply system, Cambodia’s electricity prices are one of the highest in the ASEAN region, and the world.6 

Electricity

 Source of Cambodia’s electricity production 

Statistics released in January 2016 showed that Cambodia consumed 1,985 megawatts of electricity in 2015. Local production amounted to 1,569 megawatts. Electricity was imported from Vietnam (277 MW), Thailand (135.5 MW) and Laos (4 MW).7

 

The charts above show the difference between estimates based on World Bank data from 2012 of how Cambodia’s electricity would be generated in 2014, and data reported by the EAC on electricity production in 2014.

The ADB has projected that Cambodia’s peak electricity demand will more than double to 2,401 megawatts between 2015 and 2025. In meeting this increased demand, Cambodia can access more affordable power through imports from neighboring countries, as opposed to undertaking their own power production.8 

More generally, MME projects that the country’s primary energy demand from all fuels will increase 5.4% annually from 2010 to 2035. Although oil has been the major source of electricity production for more than 20 years, coal and hydropower have been added to this mix in recent years. Electricity production from coal in 2014 increased more than 400 percent to 863.02 gigawatt hours (GWh), from 168.75 GWh in 2013.9 The increased use of coal is projected to see CO2 emissions increase by 6% per year until 2035.10 By the end of 2014 there were eight hydropower plants operating.11

Phnom Penh consumes 90% of Cambodia’s electricity;12 expansion of distribution lines to rural areas—home to approximately 80% of the population—is limited. The number of people with access to electricity doubled between 2002 and 2011,13  yet the proportion is still low: less than half of Cambodian households had access to electricity in 2013.14

Electrical distribution, dam construction and other matters in the energy sector have regional and trans-border implications and there are official bodies and agreements addressing these, such as the Mekong River Commission.

Last updated: 24 April 2016

References

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