Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sustainable energy options for Cambodia discussed

Sustainable energy options for Cambodia discussed

A technician installs electrical cables for solar panels on the exterior of a Phnom Penh factory in 2014.
A technician installs electrical cables for solar panels on the exterior of a Phnom Penh factory in 2014. Vireak Mai

Sustainable energy options for Cambodia discussed

Representatives from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Ministry of Environment and a handful of climate advocates met in Phnom Penh yesterday to brainstorm ways the country can transition to a “sustainable energy future”.

Peter Hefele, head of Asia’s energy security and climate change at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, said yesterday that a transition to renewable forms of energy was “the biggest issue we focused on” but noted that, in order to get these energy projects off the ground, Cambodia’s energy sector’s regulatory framework would need to be retooled.

Currently, control over Cambodia’s electrical grid is centralised, but it would have to be opened up to introduce renewables into the picture. Micro-grids that run off of solar panels, for example, would need to be developed in remote areas that are now disconnected.

“Solar and biomass energy will be especially important in the remote areas of Cambodia,” Hefele said. “Wind opportunities are limited, but biomass is very important for an agricultural society.” However, he added, financing is still an issue for many of these projects.

“It’s easier to get a loan for $500 million for a coal-fired power plant than it is to get a $500,000 loan for a solar project,” he noted, adding that private investors are often very reluctant.

With that in mind, the government should take out loans and invest its own money to subsidise solar and biomass projects, he said.

“There is still a gap with pricing, so private-public partnerships could be an option. The ADB [Asian Development Bank] and the European development banks are interested in financing green energy,” Hefele noted. “But it will need five to 10 years of support and subsidisation.”

There is consensus that large hydropower projects and coal-fired power plants – which the Kingdom has long pursued – are detrimental for the environment, and that developing countries could leapfrog the pitfalls faced by many developed nations by adopting greener technology to meet their growing energy needs.

However, energy expert Paul Chapman, executive research director of the consultancy AARN Global, said Cambodia’s government is heading in a different direction.

“The government has an ambitious plan to build out the centralised grid, but micro-grids could disrupt that,” he said. “Micro-grids are harder to control and that’s a risk for the government.”

Instead, Chapman said the government often focuses on big energy projects that rely on hydropower or coal and can easily be integrated into the central grid. Solar power could eventually be used in the grid, too, Chapman noted, but it would require complicated engineering skills currently unavailable in Cambodia.

But when asked whether Cambodia’s government appeared prepared to invest in speeding up the transition to clean energy, Hefele said there is “a lot of debate” happening now.

“But I always emphasise that they have to find their own solutions,” he said. Other countries have done this and they can avoid some of the pitfalls from other countries.”

Ministry of Environment officials declined to comment.

Additional reporting by Bun Sengkong

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism

  • Residents ordered to remove structures on Phnom Penh’s canal

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng has ordered authorities to act against the perpetrators who built houses along the Luo 5 canal in Meanchey district. The municipal administration plans to create a committee to solve the matter. The order was given on Wednesday while Sreng led

  • ‘On the offensive’: Cambodia to load up on loans to stimulate economy

    As the dust settles on the economy, Cambodia comes to grips with what needs to be done to turn the economy around, starting with a big shopping list for credit ‘We are going on the offensive,” Vongsey Vissoth, Ministry of Economy and Finance permanent secretary

  • Government set to make up for cancelled April holiday

    The government is set to make up for a five-day Khmer New Year holiday late this month or early next month. The holiday was earlier cancelled due to the onset of Covid-19. The announcement is expected on Friday as the government is studying a range

  • Families told to register for cash handouts

    The government has called on poor families to apply to commune authorities for evaluation to receive financial support during the Covid-19 crisis. A $300 million budget has been planned for implementation within a year. Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Vongsey Visoth said this

  • Crumbling prices, rent ruffle condo segment

    The prolonged decline in international arrivals to Cambodia intensified by renewed Covid-19 fears has driven down condominium sales prices and rental rates in Phnom Penh, a research report said. CBRE Cambodia, the local affiliate of US commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE Group

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures