Posted by: Simon & Becci | May 5, 2013

I’ve got the power (sometimes)

blackouts

Six years may have passed since I worked for E.ON UK, one of the leading gas and electricity companies in the UK, but I remain somewhat fascinated by anything related to electricity. Becci is well used to my childish excitement whenever we come across a wind turbine in the UK as I think they are beautiful. Maybe not a view shared by everyone!

Whilst I have yet to hear about any wind farms in Cambodia, I am well aware of the use of hydro-electric dams to generate electricity here and the impact that they make.

That’s because its the hottest time of year here in Phnom Penh. A few weeks ago temperatures were reaching 40 degrees in the shade whilst humidity levels can climb to over 90%. Walking out of an air conditioned room into the heat is a bit like climbing into a warm bath.

The rapid growth and development of the city, including the daily increase in air-conditioned homes, businesses and coffee shops means that the demand for electricity is seriously high. However, the dry season and resultant low water levels of the country’s rivers means that the amount of electricity currently being generated by the hydro electric plant is as its lowest level of the year, just when demand is highest.

The result: there’s not enough power to go round so the city is constantly experiencing power cuts.

As it is the end of the dry season the river is at its lowest level. In a few months the stilts of the houses on the right will be underwater

The river at its lowest annual level. In a few months the stilts of the houses on the right will be underwater

At the moment we are averaging cuts lasting about 4 hours a day at the church building, usually at the hottest times of day which makes working somewhat tricky. We’ve heard reports of other parts of the city where the average is 8 hours a day. Hearing a small petrol powered generator running is now a daily occurrence.

englishclass

Becci teaching in our English class whilst the power is on

However, our experience at home is somewhat different. In 2013 to date we have had a total of just one power cut. Our understanding is that this is because we are in a “special zone” where the power supply is protected.

Special zones apparently include areas where there are hospitals, embassies, government departments…..as well as areas where important people live. We believe the latter applies to our area as we think someone with a high position has recently built and moved into a large new home nearby. Good news for us, but not for many other residents across the city who are not considered “special”.

It would be fascinating to know how people in the UK would respond if this happened. Most people here find it difficult but have learned to adapt and cope admirably.

If you want to read more from a different perspective then check out this newspaper article from the Phnom Penh Post.

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Responses

  1. Is that an interactive whiteboard you’re using?!!

    • Sadly not – just a normal whiteboard with projection onto it

  2. Hi Simon & Becci. In the Donbass region of Eastern Ukraine (where Igor, Vladimir etc come from), regular power cuts are a daily occurrence. Each local authority handles it differently. In some areas the power is cut off on alternate days, in others during the night (from 10pm to 7am), in others during the day (from 10am to 6pm), and in others again for a certain number of hours each day..Everyone makes sure there’s a full bucket of water next to the loo, a full bowl of water next to the washbasin and a jug of water or two next to the kitchen sink. Welcome to the world “out there”. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this. Everyone here needs to know about it.

  3. S’getting, s’getting, s’getting kinda heavy – that newspaper report shows how little the company values its customers.

    Please be patient until June?
    We can’t give you accurate information to plan when you’ll have no power, so we’ll give you no information?

    I take it there is no competition? As with many things Cambodian, the haves have already and continue to have, and the have nots get their little taken from them to give to the haves. Binning $30 of ice cream is peanuts to the bigshots, but dread to think how crippling it has been to the sellers business.

    GOD COME to that wonderful country.


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