Gov’t Aims to Provide Power To Rural Cambodia by 2020

The government, in partnership with the Japan International Co­operation Agency, announced Monday its intention to electrify 100 percent of rural areas by 2020, in part by using renewable energy technologies.

Currently 13 percent of rural Cam­bodians and 54 percent of city dwellers have access to the national electric grid, officials at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy said.

The rest rely on expensive private generators or batteries for power.

The JICA team plans to complete a renewable energy master plan for Cambodia by 2006 that includes designs for solar energy, wind mills, hydroelectric dams, animal-waste bio-gas facilities and plant-waste bio-mass generators.

Solar-powered cooking facilities and cow-manure processing is al­ready in place in some rural areas, said Toch Sovanna, the ministry’s head of renewable energy.

Renewable energy sources—such as solar power, windmills and hydroelectric dams—will contribute to a cleaner environment and also lower the end price of electricity for the poor, the ministry said.

A $5.75 million grant from the World Bank’s Global Environ­ment Facility and a possible $10 million loan from the Bank will help to resolve this impasse.

But Sat Samy, director of the ministry’s technical department, said Cambodia ultimately needs $200 million to meet the goal of complete electrification by 2020. Minister Suy Sem said Mon­day that it has been difficult to extend the electric grid due to the low rate of return for potential in­vestors. The area still needing trans­mission cables is large, while the wealth of the population—and therefore their ability to use electricity—is small.

“Rich pay less, poor pay more,” Secretary of State Ith Praing said. “This is not fair.”

“The [rural] people are poor…

and yet the price of electricity is very high when compared to prices in urban areas,” Ith Praing said. Electricity today costs be­tween $0.09 and $0.25 per kilowatt hour in the cities and be­tween $0.40 and $0.80 per kilowatt hour in the countryside.

Currently most of Cambodia’s power comes from the burning of petroleum, a costly option that will only worsen as oil runs out globally in the next 40 to 50 years, Sat Samy said.


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