In light of Cambodia’s growing demand for energy, government officials on Wednesday called on the private sector to invest in the country’s power generation and transmission needs.
At the “Powering Cambodia” conference in Phnom Penh, organized by the Independent Power Producers Association of India (IPPAI), representatives of the Mines and Energy Ministry, the Electricity Authority of Cambodia (EAC) and Electricite du Cambodge (EdC) met with Indian experts to discuss possible reforms to the country’s underfunded energy sector.
Speaking during the conference, Keo Rattanak, director-general of EdC, explained that the event was part of a wider initiative by the government to expand the role of the private sector in the country’s nascent renewables industry.
“Energy generation growth in Cambodia has been private sector led. But our current generation will not be sufficient to meet demand beyond 2020,” Mr. Rattanak said. “We are increasingly looking at solar and biomass investments to help meet generation demands.”
Other officials pushed those in the private sector to invest in energy distribution channels. Ty Norin, chairman of the EAC, said 338 licenses had been granted to private companies with the collective capacity to cover electricity transmission to 95 percent of villages in the country.
“We also want to grant longer term contracts to investors to develop distribution channels,” Mr. Norin said. “And we are particularly looking for private entrepreneurs in rural areas.”
Victor Jona, director of the Mines and Energy Ministry’s energy department, said that 56 percent of households were currently electrified, with the ministry aiming for 70 percent of households by 2030.
Harry Dhaul, director-general of the IPPAI, said that in order to meet these targets with the help of private companies, Cambodia first needed to foster a transparent legal and regulatory environment.
“There is a need for enabling power sector reforms in Cambodia, especially at the policy and regulatory level,” Mr. Dhaul said, adding it was important to draw on private-sector expertise to diversify the country’s energy base away from hydroelectric power and fossil fuels.
“Rural parts of the country really need clean power,” he said, “and solar energy is the way forward.”
Jim Gramberg, CEO of Solar Partners Asia, said that while Cambodia’s potential for solar energy generation was significant, investors continued to be deterred by a lack of government support and poor understanding of the technology by potential clients.
“Solar power is looked upon as if it comes from Mars in this country,” Mr. Gramberg said. “We have been approached by private investors for 100-megawatt solar projects, but there is a lack of government support and funding opportunities from the banking sector.”
© 2016, Tej Parikh. All rights reserved.