Official: Solar Energy Could Power Most of Cambodia

A proposed solar energy system that could bring power to up to 80 percent of the nation will cost more than $300 million over 10 years, a top expert has estimated.

Sat Samy, the director of the De­partment of Energy Tech­nique at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, hailed the plan as a way to make a great leap as Cambodia struggles to obtain full electrification by the year 2020.

“This, I believe, will not only provide power, [but] it can generate water for the needy people,” Sat Samy said.

The Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy is considering two solar-energy projects, studies of which have been funded by the World Bank and Global Facilities. The plan calls for a new Rural Elec­trification Fund to finance private companies that invest in pow­er in rural areas.

The government is itself creating a Solar Energy Foundation to send free solar panels to public buildings, schools, hospitals, pa­godas and training centers, Sat Samy said.

Authorities hope to send a draft of the solar proposal to the Coun­cil of Ministers early next year, Sat Samy said.

Worldwide, authorities are alarmed at the dwindling supplies of natural gas, which could be de­pleted in the next 40 years, Sat Sam said. Even if gas could be found in new supplies, it still pollutes. Solar energy, on the other hand, is an attractive alternative.

“Solar has no smoke and no pollution,” Sat Samy said.

Up to 85 percent of Cambodia’s people have no electricity, ex­perts said. Already, the Depart­ment of Energy Technique has come up with so-called “charge-control” equipment that uses so­lar panels to power batteries, Sat Samy said.

In the last two years, the Min­istry of Industry has installed so­lar power in 30 locations, most of them in public schools in rural areas.

Part of the problem, however, is that solar energy requires a large amount of start-up money, which puts people off, experts said.

“It costs each family $350 to $450 [to power one house using solar energy],” Khmer Solar Co Manager Mao Sangat said. “But it can be used for 25 years.”

Although some Cambodians think solar energy is too expensive, many countries are already working on new technologies that reduce prices to amounts comparable to hydroelectricity or natural gas, Sat Samy said.


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