A report released this month by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) suggests that due to Cambodia’s high suitability to solar power, energy from solar panels is a viable and sustainable source of power that could lead to energy independence.
The report, which assesses the potential for development of biofuels, wind and solar in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, found that “Cambodia has substantial solar resources that could be harnessed on a competitive basis, especially since so much of the country is without a grid system”.
According to the report the physical attributes of Cambodia make 134,500 square kilometres of land area suitable for the development of photovoltaics (PVs).
An advantage to PVs is they can be deployed in rural areas to provide power locally.
The report also notes that “because electricity rates are so high in Cambodia, solar energy can be an economically feasible option”.
“Cambodia has the highest energy prices in Southeast Asia, ranging from $0.18/[kilowatt-hour (kWh)] to $1/kWh in the rural areas.
” Solar, in contrast, is predicted to cost about $0.17 per kilowatt-hour if it were to be deployed in Cambodia, according to data in the report.
Currently, there are only two pilot projects for PVs in the country as of 2012, amounting to a small fraction of solar energy potential, which the report estimates to be 10.8 terawatt-hours per year.
The 2013 estimate for Cambodia’s annual electricity consumption was just over a third of that.
The ADB report also indicated that Cambodia’s energy demands are expected to increase by one fifth annually.
So far, renewable energy development in the Kingdom has been, the report says, “mostly research and demonstration projects . . . The government, with international assistance, has installed some 12,000 solar household systems.”
Pharith Kong, an adviser for IMB Cambodia, a company in Phnom Penh that installs home PV units, says part of the problem is that “there’s not enough information about solar”.
“There is no oversight and little protection for companies selling solar products,” he added.
“Companies can import and sell in Cambodia without EU standards . . . There needs to be money to support certification.”
The Ministry of Environment is working on creating tax incentives for eco-friendly and green technology use.
The ADB has also been developing solar projects in Cambodia with the planned installation of solar panels to power the offices of commune officials along the Tonle Sap basin announced last year.