Japan has continued its support for the sustainable supply of electricity to remote rural areas of Cambodia through a new partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Mines and Energy that will provide electricity to 1,300 households in seven provinces.

The Japanese embassy in Phnom Penh and UNDP signed a new agreement in the presence of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, according to a March 20 joint statement issued by the three institutions.

The Cambodian government has prioritised access to energy for the past two decades, resulting in a sharp increase in access to electricity supply – from 6.6 per cent in 2000 to 97.53 per cent in 2021.

The press release also said the new initiative would be implemented by UNDP and the energy ministry as part of the Inclusive Renewable Energy Access in Rural Areas project, which will provide 1,300 households with direct access to clean, affordable and reliable energy.

“Currently, we cannot reach these communities by land, as they are located on remote islands in the Tonle Sap Lake area of Kampong Chhnang province and on the Mekong River in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces. There are also difficulties accessing rural areas that have recently been cleared of mines in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey provinces and remote areas of Ratanakkiri provinces,” it said.

UNDP has shown its commitment to leaving no one behind as this new project will provide a renewable supply of electricity to the remaining off-grid villages. This will contribute to reducing poverty, expanding opportunities and improving health, productivity and better quality of life for the people in these locations.

“Of the 350 off-grid villages, about 180 are difficult to reach by road. Many of these villages are very poor and home to some marginalised groups such as indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities,” it said.

UNDP resident representative Alissar Chaker said Cambodia had emerged as one of the countries with the highest rates of electrification over the past decade.

“I express my sincere appreciation to the government’s stand on adopting a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants and encouraging investment in clean energy. The rapid deployment of utility scale solar projects – from 10MW in 2017 to 372MW by the end of 2021 – is proof that Cambodia is capable of achieving its Long-Term Strategy for Carbon Neutrality, provided the pace of renewable energy deployment is maintained,” she said.

In July 2021, UNDP made the bold commitment of supporting access to clean energy for 500 million people globally by 2025. UNDP considers access to energy as a key enabler for progress and poverty reduction.

Kampong Chhnang provincial governor Sun Sovannarith praised the project, saying he was grateful for the help to his people – especially those in the Tonle Sap area who could not could not be connected to the national grid.

He said that having access to electricity improved livelihoods, reduced poverty and improved people’s quality of life.

“In general, having electricity is very good because living without it is difficult. It adds to the ease of doing business, for example. Whether it is provided by the national grid, or through the use of solar technology, this is an outstanding contribution,” he said.