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Renewables can replace fossil fuels by 2050: WWF

A worker at Star8 solar factory in Phnom Penh installs solar panels in January 2014. The Environment Ministry said it is working to make eco-friendly and green technologies tax free.
A worker at Star8 solar factory in Phnom Penh installs solar panels in January 2014. The Environment Ministry said it is working to make eco-friendly and green technologies tax free. Vireak Mai

Renewables can replace fossil fuels by 2050: WWF

Cambodia can realistically get 90 per cent of its energy from wind, solar and biomass by 2050, the World Wildlife Federation found in a new report published yesterday.

Renewable energy will soon be cheaper than fossil fuels, especially when factoring in dollars lost to environmental damage and health costs, according to the WWF.

But wider investment in renewable power and energy efficiency needs better regulations and clear legal targets in Cambodia, WWF said.

“WWF needs to work closely with the Royal Government of Cambodia, NGOs, CSOs and business leaders,” the organisation’s country head, Chhith Sam Ath, said in a statement.

According to the report, which analyses different future energy mixes, Cambodians could be using 29 per cent less energy by 2050, with as much as 90 per cent of that energy coming from solar, wind and biomass. The remainder could come from fossil fuel and dams. WWF projects potential cost savings of $700 million per year in fuel costs and much more in prevented damage to nature.

As of 2014, the Kingdom relied 62 per cent on hydro power, 19 per cent on liquid fuel, 18 per cent on coal and 1 per cent on biomass, according to the Electricity Authority of Cambodia.

The WWF also urged the Kingdom to lower its reliance on polluting fossil fuels and dams – the latter being a centrepiece of Cambodia’s attempts to become more energy self-sufficient.

The government should create targets and sort out inconsistent value-added taxes and import duties on renewable technology, said Richard de Ferranti, a consultant with Mekong Strategic Partners.

Under WWF’s proposed vision, Cambodia can get close to half its power from the sun.

“Cambodia has one of the best solar resources in ASEAN,” Ferranti said, referring to studies that show Cambodia rates higher in solar radiance than its neighbours.

Remote villages are cheaper to electrify with off-grid solar than building expensive, inefficient power lines, said Gnhoung Choumnit, deputy director of energy development at the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

Meanwhile, if just 40 Phnom Penh factory roofs can be fitted with solar panels, they can make 100 megawatts of power, enough for tens of thousands of homes, Ferranti said.

For this to take off, the government has to make a way for panel owners to “sell” power into the grid, according to Arjen Luxwolda, a managing director at solar provider Kamworks.

But Chhun Sophal, with the National Council for Sustainable Development, urged caution, saying that fully phasing out fossil fuels and hydro dams is not realistic.

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