My thinking on sustainable development issues in Cambodia and in the region.
By: Heng Pheakdey
Energy is a must-have ingredient for development. Without energy, it is not possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. But today nearly one in five people around the world do not have access to modern energy services. Nearly 40 percent of the world’s population relies on traditional biomass for cooking and heating which causes lung disease and kills nearly two million people a year, as a result of breathing in toxic smoke.
Realizing the importance of energy for sustainable development, the UN launched a global initiative in 2012 called sustainable energy for all (SE4ALL) to mobilize actions from all sectors of the society to support three interlinked objectives: providing universal access to modern energy services; doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. These objectives are to be achieved by 2030, and will positively transform the world’s energy systems and maximize development benefits especially for the poor.
In Cambodia, energy is one of the key development challenges. As its economy is growing, Cambodia’s energy demand is also rising. Due to the insufficient domestic production, the country is now in a serious energy shortage. On average, one person in Cambodia uses only 370 (goes) kilogram of oil equivalent of energy, one of the lowest rates in ASEAN. Currently, 65 percent of the total population still does not have access to electricity. Cambodia depends heavily on imported fuel for electricity generation and this causes its electricity price to be one of the most expensive in the world. The lack of supply and the high cost of electricity are negatively affecting Cambodia’s businesses and can potentially harm the country’s growth in the long run, unless comprehensive policies are put in place in a timely manner.
Recognizing the profound implications of energy deficiency, the Cambodian government was among the first countries to adopt the SE4ALL initiative in an attempt to solve its energy problems.The government has so far expressed its strong commitment to implement the SE4ALL initiative. The SE4ALL vision and road map have been developed and resources are being mobilized. With regard to energy access, it has been agreed that at least 70 percent of all households in Cambodia would have access to grid quality electricity by 2030. The national energy efficiency policy strategy and action plan has also outlined the plan for a 10 percent decrease in final energy consumption and a 20 percent reduction in energy demand compared to business as usual projections by 2035. Although, a specific target or deadline has not been set for renewable energy, the power development plan shows that over 50 percent of electricity generated will be derived from hydropower by 2020.
SE4ALL has the potential to promote Cambodia’s energy sector; however, challenges remain when it comes to the actual implementation. For example, there is still a lack of a comprehensive strategy that addresses the efficient use and the affordability of electricity while the policy to govern the development of renewable energy source is still missing. Awareness on renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies remains low and the technical know-how for exploiting renewable energy and the capacity to undertake energy management and audit exercises is still limited. There is also the lack of incentives for the use of renewable energy for low income households.
Active stakeholder engagement is the key to removing these barriers. The government must focus on developing legal and regulatory frameworks that address the needs of partners including the creation of an attractive investment climate and ensuring good governance. The private sector can provide seed money for clean technologies and invest in both on-and off-grid energy solutions to provide the poor access to sustainable energy products and services. Donors have a critical role to play in supporting capacity building and technical assistance. Industries can make their operations and supply chains more energy-efficient. The academia can contribute to technology innovation and knowledge generation. Civil society groups can train entrepreneurs, engage in advocacy, raise awareness and demand accountability.
The road to achieve SE4ALL is long and Cambodia is just starting the journey but with firm commitment and active participation from all stakeholders, the goal to bring sustainable energy for all Cambodians is within reach.
Heng Pheakdey is a the founder and chairman of Enrich Institute