In Cambodia, solar power surges

Cambodia has turned to solar to meet its energy shortage, but it’s not quite ready to give up fossil fuels.

One hour west of Cambodia’s capital an array of iridescent panels stretches between palm trees, glistening through dust clouds from a neighbouring highway. A year ago it was a barren expanse of chalky soil. Now it’s Cambodia’s largest solar farm.

The joint Cambodian-Chinese project, which came online in August, is only Cambodia’s second utility-scale solar project. But the government has approved more than four major solar farms to be built across the country.

For a nation that has relied on massive dams, fuel oil, and more recently, coal power for electricity, the solar surge is a significant step toward a lower-carbon electricity grid. However, Cambodia has also signed off on more fossil fuel power plants. As electricity demand in the country and across Southeast Asia continues to climb, whether solar can displace fossil-fuel-generated power will greatly influence the region’s air pollution and carbon emissions.

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