Cambodia’s biggest hydropower dam is near completion in the country’s northeastern province of Stung Treng. The China-invested, 400-megawatt project will begin operation in November and is expected to substantially benefit the lives of local residents.
Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen and Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Xiong Bo on Monday presided over a ceremony to close the dam’s water gates. The Lower Sesan II Hydropower Plant has eight turbines, and each turbine has an installed capcity of 50 megawatts.
The construction of the project is almost completed, as the first turbine will be put into operation in November, and all of the eight turbines will be fully operational by October 2018.
The dam is a joint venture among China’s Huaneng Hydrolancang International Energy, with 51% of the stake, Cambodia’s Royal Group, owning 39%, and Vietnamese EVN International Joint Stock Company possessing 10%.
26-year-old electrical technician Makara started working for the project in his hometown Stung Treng after graduating from a college in Phnom Penh.
“I feel very happy about working in the hydropower plant, because it is so far the hydropower plant with the largest installed capacity in Cambodia. I have learned a lot from Chinese electrical engineers, and they have shared with the Cambodian staff, like me, much experience,” said the young man.
Once fully operational, the plant is estimated to produce 1.9 billion kilowatt-hours per year and could generate tax revenues of about 30 million U.S. dollars annually.
Speaking during the closure ceremony for the water gates, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the project was a new achievement in the development of Cambodia’s energy sector. He said his country’s northeastern region has traditionally imported electricity from neighboring Laos but residents in the region would have access to long-term, reliable and affordable electricity, once the first turbine begins operation in November.
That sentiment is shared by people living in Stung Treng.
“Speaking as a man growing up in Stung Treng, I think the hydropower plant is very helpful to the development of both our macro- and micro-economies, because it can lower down the current electricity fee to 980 riels per kilowatt-hour. After going into use, it can send its electricity everywhere, and poor families can also afford home appliances like electric rice cookers, electric fans and air conditioners, so poverty can be alleviated to some extent,” said Sowan Piseth, Makara’s brother-in-law.
The plant is also expected to attract more investment into the region, indirectly leading to job creation.
Meanwhile, at the water gate closure ceremony, Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed his gratitude to China for continuously supporting Cambodia in socio-economic development.
Huang Yongda, the president of China Huaneng Group, the parent company of Huaneng Hydrolancang International Energy, said the project was a great example of cooperation between China and Cambodia under the Belt and Road Initiative.
China is the largest investor in developing hydroelectric dams in Cambodia. According to the Cambodian Ministry of Mines and Energy, Chinese companies have invested in seven dams in Cambodia. The ministry said the total capacity in Cambodia last year was over 2,000 megawatts. As of June, nearly 80% of Cambodia’s villages and more than 60% of its households had access to electricity.