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Critical biomass: ranking near top

Critical biomass: ranking near top

Cambodia was one of the world’s fastest growing users of renewable energy between 1990 and 2010, largely thanks to farmers using cleaner methods to produce fuel from agricultural waste, a report released by the International Energy Agency and the World Bank on Tuesday found.

The report also found that Cambodia’s share of “modern biomass” in its total energy consumption is one of the highest in the world, more than four times the global average and almost triple the regional figure.

Modern biomass uses many of the same materials farmers have burned for years to create energy but converts them to fuels using clean technology, instead of burning them on traditional stoves, energy researcher San Vibol from the Royal University of Phnom Penh said.

Biodigesters, cistern-like struc­tures that can be installed behind a farmer’s house to produce clean methane biogas by breaking down organic waste, are one example.

With 20,000 subsidised biodigesters built around the country by the government since 2006, it’s no surprise Cambodia’s clean renewable energy use has increased significantly, he added.

Cambodia’s renewable energy share of total energy consumption was 73.3 per cent in 2010, the report says, with 57.6 per cent coming from traditional biomass, 15.6 per cent from modern biomass and a mere 0.1 per cent from hydropower.

Its renewable energy growth rate between 1990-2010  – excluding hydropower and traditional biomass – was matched only by Myanmar and China worldwide.

Although traditional biomass, such as wood, charcoal and animal waste are widely used in the developing world, toxic smoke from burning these fuels on traditional stoves kill nearly two million people a year, according to the UN.

The National Biodigester Programme plans to build an additional 25,000 biodigesters by the end of 2016, bringing coverage to almost 10 per cent of eligible households.

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