As I pause to think while writing this letter, I stare out of a coffee shop window, squinting in the bright Cambodian sunshine.
Like the rest of Phnom Penh, my office has been plagued by power cuts for the last two weeks, causing our team to only be able to stay in the office for half of the workday – setting up a makeshift office in a coffee shop – while running a generator for the other half.
As informed by authorities, the power shortages will continue until the rainy season.
We in Phnom Penh are not the only ones facing this issue – such power cuts are affecting the entire country.
Luckily, there is a solution to the energy problem that can be constructed and operated within a short period of time – solar. Solar is reliable, renewable, plentiful and eco-friendly.
Last weekend, WWF, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and other partners, successfully celebrated Earth Hour at Aeon Mall 2 Sen Sok.
The event raised environmental awareness and called on people across the country to join the global momentum that is working to protect wildlife, nature and combat climate change.
The movement celebrated humanity’s connection to nature, highlighted why nature matters and inspired global conservation action.
WWF called for not only the public to use solar products, but also for relevant authorities to promote solar power as the eco-friendly alternative to traditional energy sources such as large hydropower and coal.
Climate change projections for Cambodia suggest that the hotter than average temperatures and increased periods of drought could be the new norm.
The Mekong River is home to many endangered species, and millions of people depend on it as a source of protein, mode of transport and even a water supply.
A healthy Mekong River means better food production, and it contributes to Cambodia’s agricultural food needs and water security.
The river also contributes to ecotourism, supports livelihoods of people living along its river banks and bolsters Cambodia’s economic development.
Building hydropower dams on the mainstream of the Mekong River will cause irreversible damage to the biodiversity of the river, and will negatively impact the millions of people who depend on it.
Other power options are available, affordable and quick.
The Royal Government of Cambodia has made strides in promoting solar power, specifically the advancement of projects in Bavet City, Kampong Speu province and a new large project in Kampong Chhnang.
Thinking longer term, a real opportunity exists to continue to support the development of solar in Cambodia, by setting an ambitious target for solar energy in the national power development plan.
Thinking forward to next year’s Earth Hour, the energy situation could be quite different from what we are experiencing today.
The average time to construct a large solar farm takes just one year or less, while a large hydropower dam takes five to 10 years.
Large scale solar projects can therefore be built fast – even in time for next year’s dry season in Cambodia.
Solar panel prices have dropped dramatically, almost 80 per cent from 2010, making solar power one of the most affordable and eco-friendly renewable energy solutions available in the world today.
Cambodia’s incredible year-long sun exposure means that our country has the opportunity and potential to be a regional leader in ASEAN, guiding the entire region toward a sustainable renewable energy future.
Solar is the best answer for Cambodia’s energy needs for economic development. WWF commits to supporting the government and relevant partners to promote the realisation of renewable and sustainable energy sources in Cambodia.
WWF Cambodia Country Director.