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Renewables receive $30M funding boost

A technician installs electrical cables for solar panels on the exterior of a Phnom Penh factory in 2014.
A technician installs electrical cables for solar panels on the exterior of a Phnom Penh factory in 2014. Vireak Mai

Renewables receive $30M funding boost

The Ministry of Mines and Energy has received $30 million in funding from the Scaling Up Renewable Energy in Low-Income Countries Program (SREP) – an arm of the global Climate Investment Funds initiative – for a solar energy development program that includes home systems, mini-grids and utility solar farms, a press release stated yesterday.

The program will leverage another $135 million from unnamed sources, with 70 per cent going toward solar energy and the rest earmarked for a biomass power project.

The funding from SREP, multilateral development banks and the private sector will accelerate the expansion of solar power in Cambodia, Victor Jona, director general of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said in the press release.

“We hope that by 2020 we can achieve our target of 100 per cent access to electricity and increase the amount of green energy in the system,” he said.

Arjen Luxwolda, a managing director of solar provider Kamworks, said that while he welcomed the announcement, it was just a fraction of the funding needed to reach the private sector’s targets.

“From the $30 million in SREP funds, only $13 million will be available for the private sector. Much more is needed if we want to [achieve] 1-gigawatts of solar power in Cambodia by 2025,” he said, adding that the total price tag to reach that target is upwards of $1 billion.

Luxwolda added that while the SREP helps, the program was too slow.

“Solar energy businesses need to grow to meet the targets set for renewable energy,” he said. “However, we cannot expect the first SREP projects to be approved before 2017.”

Jim Gramberg, CEO of Solar Partners Asia (Cambodia) Ltd, said that SREP was a good initiative – provided the government spends the money properly. “It is important that they study how solar can be properly hooked up to the national grid,” he said.

Nevertheless, for solar to truly take off, he said funding needs to come from private sector investment not tied to any government or developmental agency.

SREP is a $798-million program to deploy renewable energy solutions for increased energy access and economic growth in the world’s poorest countries.

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