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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - More sustainable energy is needed

More sustainable energy is needed

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Heads of state, energy ministers and top leaders from the energy industry gathered at the World Energy Forum in Dubai this week, aiming to boost international cooperation and exchange expertise to ensure safe and clean sustainable energy.

The United Nations General Assembly has designated the year 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.

Despite efforts to promote sustainable energy use, 1.4 billion people do not have access to modern energy and three billion rely on traditional biomass and coal as fuel sources, according to the UN.

In Cambodia, the majority of rural people have access to neither renewable energies or electricity at all, data show.

“I think in the Cambodian context the dependency of rural people on wood energy over the long term period remains very high,” Lay Khim, team leader of the Environment and Energy Unit at the UN Development Programme Cambodia said.

According to the 2010 Local Development Outlook Cambodia by the UNCDF, 94 per cent of people leaving in rural areas rely on wood, charcoal, car batteries and kerosene, while wood and charcoal account for about 80 per cent of Cambodia’s energy consumption.

The outlook said only about 22 per cent of the population has access to electricity, while Phnom Penh uses 85 per cent of the country’s total electricity.

According to Lay Khim, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) could be a good alternative source for cooking, but he said rural people still do not have enough access to LPG.

He said for electricity consumption, such as for lighting or pumping water, “solar panels could be another alternative source for rural people”, but it required the cooperation of the government and private sectors.

Andrew Wallace, CEO of PowerTopia Cambodia, said solar energy was appropriate for Cambodia, in contrast to wind energy.

“Cambodia has one of the lowest average wind speeds in the world. So it is just about the worst place you could put a wind turbine,” he said. “Whereas we think Cambodia has a very good sun, so solar is particularly applicable.”

According to Wallace, the cost of a solar panel in terms of dollars per watt nowadays was 10 per cent of what it was 10 years ago, while at the same time, the prices of other energy sources such as oil, diesel and other fuels have gone up in Cambodia and worldwide.

But according to Wallace, Cambodia faces a double problem concerning all forms of electricity. He said Cambodia’s provinces lack the electrical infrastructure to carry the power from one province to another. “But the other side of the problem is that even if there was electrical infrastructure to carry the power, there is no power to carry,” he said.

At the same time, people that may be able to produce power such as solar generators may be reluctant to invest  money if they do not have the infrastructure to distribute it.

To contact the reporter on this story: anne.renzenbrink@phnompenhpost.com

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