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One man’s trash, another’s power

Phnom Penh’s mountains of garbage might be keeping the city’s lights on as early as 2015 if all goes according to plan, developers and city officials have said.

Under a new proposal presented to Phnom Penh Municipal Hall last Tuesday, the Green Asia Global Corporation is going ahead with a study to determine the feasibility of a waste gasification plant at the capital’s Dangkor dumpsite that would convert more than 1,200 tons of waste into 30 megawatt-hours of electricity every day, said Ly Thanh Binh, general director and CEO of Green Asia Global.

Gasification is a process in which solid waste is heated and converted into a natural gas-like fuel that powers a steam turbine, leaving behind only a small amount of non-toxic ash – about 30 to 50 kilograms per ton of garbage, says Ly.

“We project that we’ll reduce the dump size to 3 to 5 per cent of what it is today,” said Ly, explaining the company will take an additional 150 tons out of the landfill every day, on top of the new trash being brought in daily.

The company plans to sell the power to Electricite du Cambodge at a price of 9.5 USD cents per kwh.

“At 9.5? That’s great,” said Iv Visal, deputy director of distribution at EDC.

According to Visal, Phnom Penh requires 370 megawatt-hours of power each day, 135 of which are imported from Vietnam at a price greater than that proposed by Green Asia.

“According to the contract, [Vietnam] must give us 200 megawatt-hours, but they have a shortage, so they give only 135,” he said, adding that the rate had recently increased by 30 per cent. “We want lower rates so we can sell to the customer lower.”

However, the municipal hall has requested a deposit of US$10 million from Green Asia Global as proof that its intentions are serious.

“Some companies are not real doers, so that is why the governor of Phnom Penh proposed to this company to deposit money first,” said Cheak Ang, a director of the municipal hall’s environment department.

Ly expressed concern at the size of the deposit, noting that the company’s only revenue stream would be the sale of the electricity.

Nonetheless, he added, the idea of a deposit was “not a dead end. We can show the money.”

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