The Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, the World Bank and representatives of the private sector are holding a two-day workshop to discuss how to develop a long-term Renewable Energy Action Plan to provide clean and abundant power to rural areas.
The World Bank predicts 70 percent of Cambodia’s population will have power by 2030, but the Cambodian government is hoping to achieve that figure in 15 years.
Less than 15 percent of Cambodia’s rural areas have electricity now, according to Sat Samy, director of the Technical Energy Department for the ministry. He said the key to sustainable energy is investment by the government and private sectors in solar energy. “Solar [energy] is much easier to create and develop everywhere compared to hydroelectricity, which needs water,” Sat Samy said.
Only 1 percent of the population currently uses solar power, but NGOs have recently turned their attention to solar energy for health care facilities, schools and pagodas.
The government allows a tax exemption for solar energy equipment imported by NGOs, but is still deliberating whether to provide a tax break for the business sector, according to Sat Samy. “We need to hear the voice of the business sector; we need to hear their requests,” he said.
According to a ministry report, 88 percent of rural villagers are not connected to grid power provided by Electricite du Cambodge, the state-owned power company.
Grid-connected households spend between $5 to $10 per month for 10 to 30 kilowatt-hours, the report stated, whereas battery users spend $2 to $3 per month for only 2 to 6 kilowatt-hours of electricity.
In rural Cambodia, the majority of households use firewood, and, to a lesser extent, kerosene, as a cooking fuel, and use batteries and candles for light. Many rural households use diesel fuel to power small engines.
The workshop ends today at the Sunway Hotel.
Prime Minister Hun Sen recently said that Cambodia could learn lessons from other countries and that, with renewable energy, Cambodia’s rural poor could improve their schools and medical facilities.