Solar must be prioritised over hydropower – association

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With the country currently struggling with its power supply, Cambodia must prioritise the development of solar energy facilities over hydropower dams, the Solar Energy Association of Cambodia said.

A solar installation in Siem Reap province. KT/Chea Vannak

Speaking to Khmer Times yesterday, Sokun Sum, chairman of the association, said Cambodia should focus on attracting investment in solar energy.

He said construction times for solar farms are lower than for hydropower dams, and with demand for electricity skyrocketing, Cambodia needs to build energy infrastructure as fast as possible.

He said up to five 60-megawatt solar farms can be built within seven months, while building a single hydropower dam can take up to five years.

“It has been brought up to our attention that power consumption in Cambodia has dramatically increased, mostly driven by construction projects. Therefore, investment in solar parks should go before hydropower, which now dominates domestic power consumption in the country,” he said.

Mr Sum acknowledged that solar farms can be expensive and require large plots of land, but said returns on investment are high.

According to RFA News, Cambodia has about 10,000MW of hydropower potential, 8,100MW for solar, and about 6,500MW for wind.

The latest report from the Electricity Authority of Cambodia shows that about 85 percent of the power consumed in the country is generated internally – from coal, hydropower, biofuels, and renewable energy sources. Renewable energy accounts for 0.46 percent of all power generated in the country, but that figure will rise to 0.68 percent by the end of the year, EAC says.

Cambodia imports the rest of the energy it consumes (15 percent) from Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos, but energy imports will rise to 21.15 of total energy consumed by the end of 2019.

In 2017, a $12.5-million, 10MW solar farm was completed in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet city by Singaporean firm Sunseap. This is the country’s first large-scale solar farm.

The government recently approved two 60MW solar plants – one in Pursat province and the other in Kampong Chhnang – along with a 20MW expansion to an existing 60MW farm in Kampong Speu.

Once all these projects are completed, Mr Sum expects solar to account for 3 percent of all energy produced in the country.

He said Cambodia should be producing 1,000 megawatts of solar power by 2020 to prevent future power shortages.

Mr Sum said companies from around the world are eyeing opportunity in Cambodia’s solar sector.

This article was originally published in the Khmer Times.