Friday, 27 November 2009
by Irwin Loy
Phnom Penh Post
APROPOSAL from a French NGO would extend power to thousands of rural Cambodians living without electricity, group officials said Thursday.
The proposal is part of an ongoing effort to fill energy-poor Cambodia’s electricity needs.
The NGO, Fondation Energies pour le Monde (Fondem), says the plan would bring green power to 27 villages in Kampong Thom through a combination of solar generators and biomass-gasification systems.
“We believe climate change is our challenge,” said Catherine Bourg, a project manager with Fondem.
The proposal highlights the difficulties of bringing electricity to the Kingdom.
Less than 20 percent of Cambodia is hooked up to the country’s fragmented grid, which consists of isolated systems powered largely by costly
The figure is even lower in rural areas, government figures show. However, the government is exploring hydroelectricity and coal projects – in order to meet a goal of 70 percent electrification by 2030 – which have come under fire from environmentalists.
The Fondem project, its proponents say, could provide power for thousands before then.
“Do we wait maybe 10 to 15 years for the grid to reach these villages?” Bourg said.
“Or do we try to promote local energy uses that will be cheaper?”
A more immediate barrier is the project’s US$5 million start-up cost, which Fondem hopes to pay with the help of a coalition of foreign and local investors, donors and subsidies.
“It’s a huge amount,” Fondem director Yves Maigne acknowledged during a presentation of the proposal Thursday in Phnom Penh to industry and government officials.
“But renewable energy has to be promoted. That requires financial efforts.”
Fondem officials say they expect it will take months to secure approvals and financing.