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Investment spotlight shines on solar power, official says

Investment spotlight shines on solar power, official says

091126_08
A solar plant is shown near Seville, Spain. Investors are looking to build similar ventures in Cambodia. Bloomberg

Ten companies have approached Ministry of Energy to declare interest in building solar plants after axing of tax on materials

Big thirst For Fuel
Primary energy demand in Cambodia will rise from 4.8 million tons of oil equivalent (MTOE) in 2005 to 12 MTOE in 2030, an annual increase of 3.7 percent, according to a report by the Asian Development Bank released earlier this month.

Ten companies from eight countries have sought permission to invest in solar energy projects in Cambodia after the August removal of a 15 percent duty on imports of the materials needed to build solar plants, Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy Secretary of State Sat Samy said.

“We have received many proposals for our approval, and we are now instructing them to study the domestic electricity market,” he said. “Two companies, from Japan and Malaysia, are close to beginning development on solar investment projects.”

The other companies are from the United States, China, Canada, Australia, Korea and Singapore, he said. They were planning developments capable of generating between 10 and 50 megawatts of electricity.

Dutch duo Peter Wijnans and Frans Marchand, who told the Post Tuesday that they planned to invest US$300 million in one or several large solar arrays, were not listed among the potential projects.

The pair claimed government support for the project, which they said likely would not be started for three to four years.

The Cambodian government plans to supply electricity throughout the entire country by 2020 by developing renewable energy resources, specifically looking at solar, hydro and biomass-fueled power, Sat Samy said.

Energy demand in Cambodia is expected to grow 3.7 percent per year from 2005 to 2030 as manufacturing industries are established and more households connect to the electricity grid, according to a report released this month by the Asian Development Bank.

Just 20 percent of households are currently connected to the national grid, which is fragmented into isolated power systems centred on provincial towns and cities. Sat Samy said the unserviced households present an opportunity for environmentally friendly electricity investment, adding that the solar industry had greater potential than in more-developed countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.

NGO Forum President Chhith Sam Ath welcomed the planned investment but said the government must force the companies to sell electricity generated at prices the country’s rural poor can afford.

Sat Samy said he anticipated electricity generated from solar panels would range from $0.12 to $0.15 a kilowatt-hour, higher than the expected price of the power to be generated from hydroelectric dams under construction along the Kingdom’s rivers.

“At least the price will be better than the approximately 70 cents some rural households are paying at present,” he said.

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