In the updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the end of 2020, Cambodia targets a 42 per cent reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 relative to the Business as Usual (BAU) level in 2016.

Energy sector is targeted to reduce its sectoral emission by 40 per cent in 2030. In the longer term, Cambodia aims to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 through its Long-Term Strategy for Carbon Neutrality (LTS4CN), which focuses on reducing carbon emissions from the Forestry and Other Land Use (FOLU), energy, and industry sectors. The LTS4CN policy sets a target of 66 per cent emission reduction for the energy sector in 2050, which is higher than the target set in the updated NDC.

These two policies show more ambitious efforts by Cambodia in reducing its carbon intensity compared to previously announced national commitment. Cambodia’s more ambitious efforts in reducing carbon intensity are in line with the regional target in energy intensity reduction as stated under the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) Phase II: 2021-2025 with encouraging further energy efficiency (EE) and conservation efforts.

In light of intensifying efforts on energy efficiency, ASEAN has also endorsed several policies to support EE implementation on electrical appliance usage in the residential sector, including the Regional Policy Roadmap on Harmonisation of Energy Performance Standards for Lighting, the Regional Policy Roadmap on Harmonisation of Energy Performance Standards for Air Conditioners, and the Guidelines of Integration of Energy Efficiency into ASEAN Electrical and Electronic Equipment Mutual Recognition Arrangement.

In addition to the afore-mentioned existing policies, the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) of Cambodia – together with the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology, and Innovation (MISTI); the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC); and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) – have just released the National Energy Efficiency Policy (NEEP) 2022-2030 which focuses on setting targets and activities for EE from the demand-side. It covers measures that can be applied by end-user sectors to reduce energy demand (and are not limited to sector-specific policies), measurable efficiency targets, and monitoring and evaluation metrics.

The NEEP sets a reduction target for the total energy consumption of at least 19 per cent compared to BAU scenario in 2030, with specific sectoral reduction targets as follows: 34 per cent in the residential sector, 29 per cent in public services, 25 per cent in commercial buildings, 20 per cent in the industrial sector, and five per cent in the transport sector. The NEEP is expected to contribute to energy security efforts in Cambodia through managing the speed of energy demand growth while also diversifying energy supply source of the country. Taking into consideration of the largest energy consumption reduction target in residential sector in Cambodia, this article focuses on the progress and challenges in pursuing energy efficiency target in residential sector.

Residential sector role in carbon emission

Based on the 7th ASEAN Energy Outlook (AEO7), the total final energy consumption (TFEC) for the residential sector in Cambodia under BAUhas been projected to be at 2.54Mtoe in 2050 (74 per cent increase from the 2020 value).Most of the consumed energy in the residential sector in 2020 came from traditional biomass (0.72 Mtoe), electricity (0.33 Mtoe), and oil (0.21 Mtoe). Moreover, these fuels remain as majorly consumed fuels by residential in 2050. Without any policy intervention, the increasing reliance on traditional biomass, electricity and oil by the residential sector may further increase energy demand and carbon emissions in Cambodia. Thus, it will raise the challenge faced by the Kingdom to meet its carbon emission reduction targets set in the NDC and LTS4CN.

Under the NEEP 2022-2030, the regulation aims for energy-efficient household appliances which encompasses clean cook stoves and building design practices. Residential sector in Cambodia is one of the most energy consumed sector due to high urbanisation. By 2050, the urbanisation rate in Cambodia is predicted to be at roughly 36 per cent growth, which will increase the use of appliances. Thus, it will create more heavy electric consumption.

Contradictory, in Pursat and Kampong Cham provinces, several rural households claimed that they don’t have access to the grid whereas firewood, charcoal and gas become the common energy sources for the communes. Thus, energy access discrepancies between urban and rural areas also occur due to limited grid interconnection. For that reason, the policy calls for the development of a Standards & Labelling (S&L) to monitor the commitment towards “Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS)” for household equipment by 2030.

In addition, the NEEP has set the target to reduce 34% of energy consumption for the residential sector from 17,981 GWh to 11,826 GWh in 2030 under a new energy efficiency scenario. To realise this new target, the NEEP brings three key measures to cover the appropriate technical regulations in defining: minimum energy performance standards, testing guidelines for each appliance equipment category, and the development of Building Energy Code (BEC) for residential buildings. The latter affects energy-efficient design features and limits the maximum building energy use intensity. Moreover, it also considers guidelines for green building regulations, which include a certification and rating system.

The NEEP and challenges to pursue efficient energy utilisation in residential sector

According to AEO7 on Cambodia’s result, if the NEEP target to reduce 34 per cent of consumption in the residential sector is met, Cambodia can save more than 7.6 TWh of electricity (which is more than half of the 2016 consumption level (11.4 TWh). Furthermore, being more efficient in energy usage will induce several benefits.

First, it lowers the energy demand, which will lessen the need to import energy and other material resources. Second, EE can reduce the impacts of any supply interruptions. EE measures can also support emergency conservation measures related to energy demand. Overall, EE can contribute significantly to boosting energy security in the Kingdom through managing energy demand growth of the country. From the point of view of climate targets of Cambodia, it can also lead to speeding the efforts on climate targets in the country.

The NEEP is a timely relevant policy and is expected to create an enabling environment for improving EE adoption in the residential sector in Cambodia by tackling its several barriers. The lack of coordination among state agencies to regulate EE, the unavailability of sub-sectoral data and data sharing mechanisms, and the lack of timely tracking and monitoring instruments of the EE progress have persisted as challenges from the institutional level.

Further, the energy users from the residential sector have not had the inadequate capacity to understand the necessity of EE implementations. The hesitancy to implement EE measures may have stemmed from the lack of educational programmes to raise awareness among energy users of its benefits in their daily life. Often, the lack of incentives for the users to endorse EE projects also contributes to the slow adoption of EE. Last but not least, the NEEP shows a good progress toward strengthening energy efficiency efforts in supporting energy security from demand side of Cambodia.

The authors are officials at the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE), an intergovernmental organisation based the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

The views expressed are solely those of the authors.