Solar Power in the Spotlight

Chea Vannak / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Tangled power cables are commonplace in Phnom Penh, like the ones above on Street 63. KT/ Mai Vireak

The government should invest more in sustainable energy, with a focus on solar power, experts told a conference on energy security yesterday, adding that this could reduce Cambodia’s dependence on large-scale hydropower projects and coal-fired plants.
John McGinley, managing director of the Mekong Strategic Partners, told the conference at the Himawari that although solar power would not entirely replace existing energy sources, greater use of solar energy would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. Mr. McGinley added that the installation cost of solar power is affordable compared to large hydropower and coal-fired generators. 
Cambodia’s electricity is mainly derived from hydropower, coal plants, and imported energy from Thailand and Vietnam. According to the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the country’s six hydropower dams generate about 60 percent of total electricity. 
According to a report by the National Council for Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Mines and Energy’s Power Development Plan will see domestic generation rise by about 7,600 gigawatts per hour by 2020 to meet the goal of providing electricity for all villages in the country.
Installation costs of wind and solar energy have fallen by 28 percent from 2011 to 2014, and are expected to fall further, according to the report. “In Cambodia, solar installation above 1 megawatt [industrial facility scale] represents the most competitively priced alternative renewable energy technology as they can provide electricity profitably for as low as 12 cents per kWh,” the report says, while hydro and coal-fired plants power cost between eight and 11 cents per kWh. 
Speakers at yesterday’s forum said Cambodia should begin preparing for solar energy to be the main source of power.
Khieu Moth, secretary of state at the Environment Ministry, said that the falling cost of solar panels and related technology will allow Cambodia to an increasing number of solar panels in the country. Rising installation of solar panels will reduce the need for hydropower projects and coal-fired plants, both of which had onerous environmental impacts, Mr. Moth added. A recent report from the Asia Development Bank noted that Cambodia is well positioned to take advantage of solar energy and could be an ASEAN leader in tapping this source of sustainable energy. 
However, transforming power into solar sources will not be easy, as the Cambodian government has yet to invest in solar energy systems, officials said. Tin Ponlok, secretary general of the National Council for Sustainable Development, said the introduction of solar power in Cambodia was in its initial stage. “We need times to assess deeply on impact on society, the economy, and the environment before giving recommendations [to the government],” Mr. Ponlok said. 
He said Cambodia had great potential in the region for renewable energy sources, including wind, solar and biomass. The greatest potential for wind turbines is along the coast, but solar energy can be generated in every province, Mr. Ponlok said.  
Kong Pharith, general director of IMB Cambodia, a Phnom Penh-based company that installs home solar panels, said the government needs to take the lead in investing in solar energy. Mr. Pharith said foreign investors were closely watching for the government to move towards more investment in solar energy.
“The government can buy power from renewable solar energy sources at the same price in does from Chinese-owned dams,” he said. “No need to clear forests for reservoirs, no need to solve environmental impacts, and zero-emission pollution. Solar power is the sustainable power source of the future,” Mr. Pharith said.

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