As the majority of the population opts to stay home during the pandemic, the domestic demand for energy has been running high. Data from the Mines and Energy Ministry stated as of last year, around 2.68 million households, or approximately 75 percent of the country’s households, are receiving electricity – all of which are expected to record an increase in energy use. Khmer Times interviewed UNDP representative Nick Beresford to find out how the COVID-19 movement restrictions have impacted the country’s energy demands.
On average, a Cambodian household uses its air conditioner units for about 14 hours a day. In Phnom Penh, 33 percent of energy use is spent on refrigerators, 28 percent on cooking and 16 percent on space cooling, a recent report from the UN Development Programme revealed.
UNDP representative Nick Beresford said around 38 percent of electricity in Cambodia is generated through power plants which use fossil fuels such as coal. Fossil fuel, he said, emits carbon dioxide and other gases into the air that contribute to warmer global surface temperature, as well as increased air pollution that can result in significant health problems.
As such, Mr Beresford said an energy efficiency policy is needed to bring energy security, sustainability and monetary benefits to end-users. From his perspective, energy efficiency poses enormous economic potential in the Kingdom and can play a vital role to ensure a low carbon development path for the country.
“This also works to reduce energy bills for everyone which, in turn, can help stimulate investment in the green economy,” he added.
Mr Beresford said, “As we look to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, cutting down energy use is a good option for a lower-middle-income country like Cambodia to build a cleaner, safer and more prosperous future.”
Cost-cutting tips By replacing lights, refrigerators and air conditioning appliances with more cost-efficient technology, Cambodian households can save up to 21 percent of energy, the UNDP report said.
It added: “Each family could save up to 3,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity and $545 in energy cost every year by improving natural ventilation and lighting control and opting for energy-saving bulbs and low-E coated glass.”
Conservation in private consumption is a significant factor in reducing energy waste.
“Reducing domestic consumption of energy helps reduce the need for load shedding and that benefits everyone in the grid,” Mr Beresford said. “Increased use of renewable and alternative energy sources can reduce increased dependence on imported fossil fuel, leading to a cleaner and greener energy mix.”
The UNDP report also suggested that people should use fans instead of the air conditioner. If using the latter, they should set it at 26C to 28C, as this can save 3 percent of energy.
It noted using LED lamps in place of incandescent and CFL lamps as well as replacing old and inefficient appliances can make a huge reduction in monthly utilities. “An old fridge can take up more than a third of your electricity bill. Avoid putting warm foods in the refrigerator; let the food you have cooked cool to room temperature before putting in the fridge,” the report stated.
Mr Beresford also encouraged people to ride a bicycle and walk for short distances instead of using a car or other vehicles. This way, he said, can also improve one’s mental and physical health.
He added: “Conserve water by replacing dripping taps and addressing other leakages. Practice the 3Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle – where possible to reduce pressure on Cambodia’s precious natural resources.”
At present, Cambodia is experiencing load shedding due to hydropower shortages. Considering that approximately one-third of Cambodia’s electricity is sourced from hydropower plants, everyone should contribute to energy conservation.
UNDP also works closely with the Ministry of Mines and Energy to get approval on the drafted National Energy Efficiency Policy on standards and labelling of air conditioners and refrigerators to inform consumers on the appliances’ energy efficiency.
“The National Council for Sustainable Development is implementing a project to establish guidelines and certification for green buildings in Cambodia. In parallel, the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation is also working with development partners to promote energy efficiency in the industrial sector to be more competitive and gain green credential. There is an overall increased national interest in the area of Demand Side Management to reduce peak energy demand,” said Mr Beresford.
Beyond energy efficiency, the UNDP is working with the government to promote renewable energy in the national grid and support access to energy for remote and vulnerable communities.
Last year, the Ministries of Finance, Environment and Energy, with the National Council for Sustainable Development and the UNDP, published an assessment on De-risking Renewable Energy Investment in Cambodia that identified the most cost-effective public de-risking measures to support private sector investment in solar energy.