ADB Says Hydropower Growth Won’t Match Need for Oil, Coal

Cambodia’s reliance on imported fossil fuels to meet its energy needs is set to increase in the coming years, despite the raft of hydropower projects planned by the government, according to new data from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Officials from the ADB last week presented an analysis at a workshop in Phnom Penh, setting out “Asia’s energy challenge”—the task of meeting the rising de­mand for energy in a resource-short but high-growth region.

Using baseline figures from the Institute of Electrical Engineers of Japan, the ADB predicted that Cambodia’s energy self-sufficiency would decrease from more than 70 percent in 2010 to 52.2 percent by 2035.

In 2010, the equivalent energy of 5.21 megatons of oil was needed to power Cambodia—including everything from automobiles to domestic electricity supplies to cooking—according to the figures, which were provided after the workshop by the ADB.

Some 71.5 percent of Cambodia’s energy needs in 2010 were provided by “biomass and residues”—firewood and fuel left over from farming—and 28.4 percent was from imported oil, the figures say.

Just 0.1 percent came from hydropower, meaning that 71.6 percent of the energy demand was met with Cambodian-made energy.

But with growth and urbanization, the ADB predicts that the country’s energy needs will more than double to 11.1 megatons of oil equivalent.

And while hydropower dams will by 2035 account for 86 percent of domestically produced energy, this will only cover 9.9 percent of Cambodia’s total energy needs.

Cambodia’s oil imports have been steadily increasing, rising by about 14 percent last year to 1.6 million tons, according to Commerce Ministry figures.

Cambodia currently has two hydropower dams completed and four more under construction—all funded and constructed by Chinese banks and companies. Three coal power projects have also been announced.

Donghyun Park, principal economist at the ADB’s economics and research department, who presented the report last week, said that it should not necessarily be a target for countries to be energy self-sufficient.

Mr. Park said in an email that while hydropower would likely play an increasingly large role in providing energy in Cambodia, the need for fossil fuels would outstrip supply from dams.

“Demand for oil will be driven to a large extent by demand for gasoline, in turn driven by growth of automobiles. Cambodia will produce some oil in the near future, but the confirmed reserves is marginal,” he said.

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