The state-owned power utility is set to undertake a nationwide study on ways to harness an additional 2GW capacity of solar energy proposed by a regional lender, in a pilot project expected to spur up to $100 million in investments that aims to illustrate how to quickly and efficiently procure low-cost renewable energy in Cambodia towards its drive for carbon neutrality by 2050.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced the project in a November 2 statement, which noted that it had signed a “transaction advisory services mandate” with Electricite du Cambodge (EdC) to “support the development” of the extra 2GW of solar power capacity in the Kingdom.

“Under this mandate, ADB will help EdC conduct a nationwide study on opportunities for additional solar power capacity in combination with a Battery Energy Storage System [BESS], to be implemented from this year through 2030,” it said.

A BESS is a set of one or more devices assembled together that allow energy generated by the connected solar farm or other electricity system to be stored for later use, to ensure an uninterrupted supply of power under all conditions.

“ADB will also assist EdC in bidding out a 100MW pilot project identified under the study to the private sector, which will build, finance and operate the project.

“This development of 2GW of solar power is in line with the strategy of the Cambodian government to meet its growing energy demand by maximising the adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“Key to this strategy will be harnessing Cambodia’s abundant solar resources, whose share in the installed capacity increased from practically nothing in 2016 to around 12 per cent at the end of 2021,” the statement said.

Head of ADB’s Office of Public-Private Partnership, F Cleo Kawawaki, hailed the pilot project as the Kingdom’s “most ambitious yet in the renewable sector”.

“It will lower electricity costs and improve energy security by taking advantage of domestic resources.

“We hope to contribute to this effort by supporting a well-planned pipeline for transparent bids that attract active competition to optimise the efficiency, innovation and capital of the private sector to benefit the people of Cambodia,” the statement quoted her as saying.

ADB country director for Cambodia Jyotsana Varma voiced support for the Kingdom’s initiatives in green energy and its inclusion in energy planning.

Speaking in the statement, she said the Metro Manila-based multilateral lender “is pleased to support a green energy transition in Cambodia that will promote clean, sustainable and inclusive economic growth through policy reform in energy planning and governance, improving grid stability, and energy efficiency”.

In mid-September, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on ASEAN and the international community to focus on the ongoing clean-energy transition, as a crucial pillar of post-Covid-19 sustainable and resilient socio-economic recovery.

He said this during his opening remarks at the 40th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting, Related Meetings and ASEAN Energy Business Forum 2022, themed “Accelerating Energy Transition: Economic Recovery and Sustainable Growth”.

“Cambodia has actively integrated renewable energy sources into our energy mix. In fact, in 2021, energy from renewable energy sources, including hydropower, solar energy and biomass energy, increased to 40 per cent of Cambodia’s total energy.

“Also, in terms of the power capacity of Cambodia’s energy sources, the share of renewable energy sources is around 55 per cent of the total installed power capacity.

“For the way forward, Cambodia will continue to focus on the development of energy efficiency and renewable energy to the fullest of Cambodia’s energy supply system, along with the reduction of the development of the energy sources that use fossil fuels, such as coal and oil.

“To realise this objective, Cambodia has been cooperating with development partners to study and develop Cambodia’s Power Development Master Plan until 2040, the National Policy on Energy Efficiency, the Roadmap for Clean Energy Transition towards Carbon Neutrality and the Rooftop Solar Energy Development Policy in Cambodia,” Hun Sen said.

The ADB statement said the Kingdom’s Power Development Master Plan 2020-2040 “recognises the potential to further expand the capacity of solar [photovoltaic systems], which is expected to exceed 3GW in 2040. As the share of solar increases, there is a need to improve grid stability through the adoption of BESS.

“The mandate builds on ADB’s earlier support to Cambodia’s solar sector, including through the country’s first National Solar Park located in Kampong Chhnang, which will generate up to 100MW of solar power. The programme will also build on BESS projects implemented by EdC with technical and financial assistance provided by ADB,” it added.