Stung Chrov village in Kampong Chhnang province is the first to receive a “smart-grid” electrical system beginning a rollout to reach the final 10 percent of households living without electricity.
The smart-grid solution was developed by Okra Solar, an Australian firm that designs energy access technology to help utility companies get electricity to people that live in remote communities like Stung Chrov.
“The distributed energy revolution is happening around the world and it’s remarkable how countries like Cambodia are taking the lead in deploying this advanced technology which leapfrogs the infrastructure in developed nations, such as Australia, where they are now talking about disconnecting remote communities from the main grid to serve them more efficiently,” Afnan Hannan, CEO and co-founder of Okra Solar said.
Okra Solar partnered with the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Pteah Baitong, a social enterprise based in Cambodia, to roll out a “smart-grid” solution that now energises 100 households in the village.
Victor Jona, director-general of the Mines and Energy department said the benefits of this project are an improved social life and economic growth.
“The Electricity du Cambodge (EDC) through the Electricity Development Fund, has installed solar systems in more than 100,000 homes throughout the country and in rural areas, following the government’s policy to increase energy supply to all villages. We have achieved the goal of supplying 97.3 percent of the country,” Jona said.
The ministry said villagers will pay the same rate as in major cities and that the government is committed to providing affordable energy to all.
Okra Solar also said the remaining 237 villages are situated in the jungle, on coastal islands and in the middle of lakes and rivers like the Tonle Sap and the government is looking for innovative solutions to reach them.
Okra’s innovative smart-grid solution enables solar home systems to form interconnected networks that share distributed solar generation and battery storage in a plug and play manner. This approach provides 24/7 power for productive use such as rice cooking and refrigeration and is also equipped with the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable remote monitoring, control and maintenance, thanks to the Okra Harvest platform.
It is designed to enable households to have up to 1kWh of energy per day. However, the actual limit for each house varies based on the plan they select.
The smart grid connection gives potential for these houses to use even more power in the future.
Moreover, a local maintenance agent is trained in each village to read from the Harvest platform and conduct necessary maintenance as well as processing mobile money payments made by the community.
The payment process is a prepaid system which can be topped up using a mobile app. If an account is low it will send a notification to avoid a lapse in power.
If payment is not made, the smart grid will automatically cut the power.
This initiative demonstrates the government’s commitment to include innovation using rapidly deployable and decentralised renewable energy solutions, especially in the most remote areas where people need energy the most.
Voeun Sokhem, a village resident, said that she appreciates the efforts to bring them electricity. “I want to use rice cookers and hot water heaters to improve the hygiene of my cooking. If we have clean cooking we will be healthy,” she said.
“More than sweat and strength, the team put their heart into reaching this milestone and making reliable power a reality for these 100 families of the Stung Chrov community,” Okra posted on their LinkedIn.