US firm pitches massive solar project in Cambodia

US firm pitches massive solar project in Cambodia

A solar panel installation in Cambodia. (Khmer Times photo)
A solar panel installation in Cambodia. (Khmer Times photo)

US-based Omni Navitas pitched a project to the government for a US$500 million (15.6 billion baht) solar power plant that will be built through a joint venture with local firm OmniCam.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with the Commerce Ministry on Wednesday, Jim McAuliffe, chief executive officer of Omni Navitas, said the company proposed what could become “one of the largest solar projects in Southeast Asia”: a $500 million, 150 megawatt plant to be built in the country, with Koh Kong singled-out as a possible location for the solar panels.

“We will bring over $500 million of FDI investment into the country. We hope this will open the door to more US investment,” the Khmer Times on Thursday quoted McAuliffe as saying.

“The project will generate about 275 million kWh annually.

“The initial construction will create 3,000 jobs for locals. Running the facility will mean more than 500 permanent jobs for Cambodian citizens.

“We are working with the Minister of Environment to select the best site. We probably need at least 500 hectares,” he said.

The company is now negotiating with Electricite Du Cambodge (EDC) the price of the electricity that will be sold to the government. “We are now at nine cents per kWh, but negotiations continue.”

He said they will sell electricity to the government at a “reasonable” price, which will help reduce the electricity tariffs for Cambodian households.

Once an agreement is reached, construction will not start for at least a year, McAuliffe said.

Victor Jona, director-general of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, told the Khmer Times that the project is in line with the government’s goal of reducing the price of power for households.

He said another big solar project is now in the pipeline, funded by the Asian Development Bank. It will be a 100MWs plant.

The project will be awarded to a developer through a bidding process. The winner will have to sell their electricity to the national grid for less than eight cents per kWh, Jona said.

“We met with Omni Navitas and asked them to join the bidding process.

“The ministry already conducted bidding for a 10MWs solar project. Out of 35 companies that send in an application, we chose Sunseap, a Singaporean firm.” In 2017, the kingdom’s total energy output was 2,283MWs, up from 2,115MWs in 2016. Last year, Cambodians consumed 7,966 kWh of energy, while the year before they used 7,175 kWh.

With seven hydropower plants fully operational by the end of 2018, a recent report by the Electricity Authority of Cambodia forecasts that total energy output would be 1,329MWs, of which 538MWs will come from coal power plants, 251MWs from fossil fuel power stations, and 72MWs from renewable energy sources.

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