CAMBODIA’s first solar energy company plans to capitalise on the countryside’s poor infrastructure development when it launches its MoonLight solar lantern next week.
Produced by Dutch-backed firm Kamworks, the light is being pitched as a safer and cheaper alternative to the widely used kerosene lamp, which is costly to refill and poses a serious fire risk in homes made of wood and straw.
“With roughly 2 million unelectrified households, Cambodia has a home market that is large enough to allow for a modest ... solar industry in the medium term,” Kamworks director Jeroen Verschelling said.
The company, which was launched in 2006, has been producing the solar-powered lamps in Sre Ambel village, in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district, since September.
Verschelling said the device was the first solar-powered product assembled in Cambodia. Homegrown production not only provides Cambodians with jobs that would otherwise remain overseas but also creates a supply of spare parts so villagers can perform their own repairs, creating a sense of ownership and a belief in the technology. In contrast, Verschelling says, “imported products are often of poor quality or poorly installed, thus damaging the reputation of solar energy”.
The MoonLight costs US$20 and pays for itself in less than a year, given that the average kerosene lamps costs 200 riels every day to operate. The lantern is small, lightweight and portable, with a strap.
Leng Sopheap, a 52-year-old Sre Ambel resident, used the MoonLight for two weeks during the product’s test release. He says he was satisfied with the product because it was easy to use, safe and bright, and there was no smoke from burning fuel. But he said the product was a bit expensive.
“It is better to use than the kerosene lamp. I want to use it so much, but I need the cost to come down a little bit,” he said.
Though many Cambodians may still be priced out of the market for the MoonLight, initial orders for the solar lantern appear steady.
Kamworks Managing Director Arjen Luxwolda said the company produces 200 MoonLights a month. “But we can make more,” he said. “We can make 1,000 per month, depending on the customers.”
Microfinance lender Angkor Microfinance Kampuchea bought 100 last month to on-sell in rural areas, he added.
Kamworks’ solar lantern has already won two design awards this year: the Feel the Planet Earth CIFIAL Design Award and the Toon van Tuijl Design Prize.
The MoonLight will be officially launched Tuesday in Phnom Penh.