Officials and business people say solar panels are gaining in popularity in rural areas, where the power grid does not reach.
Mao Sangat, director of Solar Energy Cambodia, told the Post yesterday that his company saw increases of installation of solar power systems for families whose children worked abroad and remitted money to their parents.
He said that so far, there were no huge projects to equip solar panel systems in public places such as schools or hospitals in rural areas supported by NGOs, but solar panels were selling well to families in three provinces – Kampong Cham, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng.
“I sold about 100 units per month, and I’ve seen an increase of around 10 per cent from month to month” he said, adding that farmers are interested in using solar energy because there were no power lines laid to their villages and they never expected to get electric power from the government.
“They don’t expect the power grid to reach their homes any time soon,” he said, adding that “when they see goodness of lights from someone’s home, who have installed the solar panel, they started to install too.”
The price for a solar panels range from $175 to around $400, depending on the needs of the buyers, according to Sangat, who imports the equipments from Singapore, China, and Thailand.
He said most of the solar panel systems were sold at $550 per unit, which can be used for a few lamps, colour TVs or other purposes. He said solar panels are a better choice than generators, which are very noisy and expensive.
Yiang Tal, chief of administration of Rural Electrification of Cambodia, said Electricity of Cambodia (EDC) provided $4 million for the Department of Rural Electrification Fund (REF) this year for providing loans to villagers and private electricity providers for implementing rural electricity development.
He said that some $2 million had been given for 4,000 solar panels for people in four provinces – Kampong Thom, Pursat, Kratie and Siem Reap.
He said that more than $1 million had gone to providing loans to private electricity providers to connect lines to rural homes, and all the connected families were required to pay back over two or three years without interest charges.
“We are targeting the villages which were off-line, and I think that to develop electricity power, the government could not do it alone, without the participation of the commercial sector and private providers,” he said, adding that the $4 million project will end in August this year.
Sek Sokha, a villager in Svay Chek commune in Romdoul district of Svay Rieng province, said that he just decided recently to install a solar home system costing of $1,100 after seeing how many villagers used them and how simple they were to operate.
With the two solar panels, he hoped it would provide power to eight lamps, a colour TV and loudspeakers, he said, adding “villagers use them a lot, almost every home”, he said, adding: “I see it is easy to use, that’s why I decide to buy them too.”
Houy Chanthy, sales director at Khmer Solar company, said her company also sold mostly to the provinces of Kampong Cham, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng and Kratie. She said the sales are mostly in those provinces because the cost of electricity there was so expensive.
“I think that if the government extends power grids to most of the areas, the solar panel sales will maybe decrease,” she said. On the other hand: “If the government provides power late, the needs for solar systems will grow.”