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Rural power in need of $1bn

Rural power in need of $1bn

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Power lines on the outskirts of Phnom Penh last year. Many rural areas lack basic infrastructure and power lines. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia will need about US$1 billion by 2020 to expand its electricity grid to communes and villages still in the dark, or about 60 per cent of the country.

The sum would be used to light up 11,205 villages that now use car batteries or candles during the night, said Toch Sovanna, director of the Department of Energy Technique at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy.

These villages, or about 1.8 million households, would be powered by alternative energy sources such as solar power, biomass, small-scale hydroelectric plants by 2020, not a national grid.

The government aims to have 70 per cent of the country on a national grid by 2030.

Progress has not been steady as funding often comes up short, Toch Sovanna said yesterday at the Second East Asia Summit Energy Efficiency Conference.

“What is important is money. If we have enough money, we can do it fast,” he said.

“We will do solar energy gradually. Renewable energy projects are yet to find investors. Only hydroelectricity is going ahead.”

Hidetoshi Nishimura, executive director of Economic Research Institute for ASEAN, said at the conference energy effectiveness was important to develop the economy.

“This is important that the government and relevant authorities in the region guarantee the effectiveness,” he said.

“What we need to achieve economic development is energy effectiveness and the establishment of renewable energy sources necessary to reduce impact on the environment. We want the sustainability of economic development with energy. It is vital that we see working process.”

In early 2012, the World Bank gave Cambodia a $4 million loan for a so-called Rural Electricification plan. The government has subsidised solar panels to rural households in provinces such as Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri, Preah Vihear and Pursat.

The plan has focused on areas without electricity networks from Electricite Du Cambodge.

At present, Cambodia buys a significant amount of electricity from Thailand and Vietnam to feed power shortages in major cities such as Phnom Penh.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rann Reuy at [email protected]

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