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Solar energy to be prioritised to ease power cuts

May Kunmakara / Khmer Times Share:
Workers connect electricity cables to a transmission pole. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Electricite du Cambodge (EDC), the national electric utility, is aiming for a considerable increase in the amount of renewable energy produced in the country within the next few years, a senior official said Friday.

Cambodia mostly generates energy from coal-fired power plants and hydropower dams. Solar energy made up less than one percent of total energy output last year.

However, the country’s energy mix will change drastically in upcoming years, said EDC’s director-general Keo Rattanak.

“We will be able to produce at least 20 percent of our energy from solar systems in the next few years,” Mr Rattanak said during a forum on energy in Phnom Penh organised by the American Chamber of Commerce.

The goal is to diversify energy production, now largely dominated by hydroelectricity, which accounted for about 48 percent of all power consumed last year. Through this diversification strategy, the government hopes to put an end to the power shortages that have affected the country, Mr Rattanak said.

At the forum, titled ‘Energy Vision’, Mr Rattanak provided an overview of the current state of Cambodia’s electricity demands and a long-term outlook of the energy supply.

Mr Rattanak discussed alternatives to meeting growing energy demands and the challenges of building and updating the electricity transmission and distribution system in the country.

He pointed out that Cambodia’s energy output is due to increase by at least 320 megawatts, with several solar parks scheduled to come online between 2020 and 2022.

According to a recent study by the Asian Development Bank, Cambodia has about 10,000 MW of hydropower potential, 8,100 MW for solar and about 6,500 MW for wind.

In March, France-based Blue Circle finished a feasibility study for a project to build wind turbines in the Kingdom, showing that the country could generate up to 500 MW from wind turbines.

When asked whether Cambodia is willing to consider wind energy projects, Mr Rattanak said the Kingdom welcomes investments in any “green energy”, but said that building the infrastructure needed to harness wind presents technical problems that need to be studied.

Mr Rattanak also listed a number of energy projects that will come online in the near future, including a coal-fired power plant in Sihanoukville that will produce 135 MW.

Since power cuts began in March across the country, the government has approved several energy investments – a hydropower dam in Pursat province and several solar farms across the country – and increased energy imports from neighbouring countries.

Heng Vann Hean, sales manager at TTC Energy Cambodia, told Khmer Times after the forum that his company is now biding on a solar farm project recently approved by the government.

He said the government is now prioritising renewable energies, particularly solar energy, because it has great potential and could help end the country’s energy woes.

Last year, Cambodia consumed 2,650 MW, a 15 percent increase compared to a year earlier. 442 MW were imported from Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.

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