Cambodia is planning a move towards solar and wind energy to meet its rising power demands, according to Minister of Mines and Energy Keo Rottanak.

On the sidelines of the Singapore International Energy Week event held recently, Rottanak emphasised the urgency of diversifying Cambodia’s energy sources.

“We will lean heavily on solar, complemented by wind, to augment what hydroelectricity can offer. Our aim is to integrate these with interconnections from Vietnam and Laos,” he stated.

Despite hydropower’s significant role, Rottanak expressed concerns about its reliability in the face of climate change and global warming.

“Hydropower is essential, but it’s vulnerable to environmental shifts. Our strategy is to maximise intermittent renewable energy, with a strong focus on solar, up to the grid’s capacity,” he added.

According to Reuters, unlike some of its Asian counterparts, such as Malaysia and Vietnam, Cambodia has traditionally leaned on its hydropower capabilities to reduce fossil fuel reliance.

The minister revealed plans to unvei​l a 1,000 megawatt hydro project within the next two weeks. He also hinted at the country’s ambition to rework its regional power exchange strategies to accelerate the energy transition.

“It’s time to transition from bilateral agreements to sub-regional and regional interconnectivity,” he said, emphasising the country’s proactive approach to re-evaluating the ASEAN power grid concept.

“If we can deploy submarine cables for the internet, laying subsea cables for electricity should be feasible,” he added.

Officials from the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) highlighted that energy security remains a top priority for Cambodia as it seeks to provide an adequate supply for the country’s growing energy demand.

The nation’s electricity access surged from a rate of 34% in 2010 to 98% by 2022.

“Cambodia’s reliance on electricity imports remains high, with 25% of its power in 2019 coming from neighbouring countries such as Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Meanwhile, electricity demand peaked in 2022, with an approximate 16% annual growth rate,” ACE noted.

The extensive blackouts experienced in 2013 and 2015 underscored the country’s dependency on imported electricity, the group noted.

According to ACE, these challenges spurred the government to reinforce measures ensuring the nation’s energy security. In response, Cambodia drafted a Power Development Plan (PDP) for 2022-40, aiming to prevent future blackouts and mitigate energy insecurity.

“Through this plan, Cambodia is focusing on bolstering energy security by leveraging domestic energy resources, rather than relying on imports,” they explained.

“The PDP envisions a transition to a cleaner grid, emphasising hydropower as the primary source and reducing imports. To effectively implement this plan, the government has detailed the roadmap for power development in Cambodia, including investments needed for the 2022-40 period,” ACE added.

The 7th ASEAN Energy Outlook (AEO7) projects that the Kingdom’s total installed capacity will reach 10GW by 2050 under the Business as Usual (BAU) scenario, tripling the 3GW capacity of 2020.

The report indicated that by 2040, hydropower is forecasted to dominate with a capacity of 4.45GW, significantly ahead of coal (2.26GW) and oil (2.01GW).

However, under the ATS (national policies) and APS (regional policies) scenarios, the power system’s total projected capacity in 2040 is expected to be 7.1GW and 6.2GW, respectively.

“Hydropower will continue to be the primary contributor to the power sector’s total capacity, but gas, solar and wind will surpass coal and oil. In all scenarios, hydropower remains the chief energy source for Cambodia’s power sector,” said the report.