Opportunities are unlimited for Cambodia in the area of energy efficiency
Written by Butchaiah Gadde
It was early November 2020 that UNDP organised a training on energy efficiency in Siem Reap. After reaching the city late evening on the day before training, went directly to the venue to check on the arrangements. An unexpected encounter – gloomy, dark ambience, one staff at the reception. Lights were turned off even in the reception longue! It is certainly unusual for my colleagues who used to visit this busy hotel with bursting tourism and most happening place in the town.

This is not the story of a single hotel, but most of the businesses across the Siem Reap. We were told, the situation is improving with domestic tourists in the country – whereas Siem Reap appeared as a ghost town following the unfold of COVID-19 Pandemic, mainly in April, May and June months. Nobody knows when the situation would return to normal or at least what that new normal would be.

We development practitioners would expect this as a pausing moment that provides an immense opportunity to drive the costs down while businesses recover from COVID-19 and would lead towards a more low-carbon pathways and green economy. This also provides immense job opportunities, improved social safety net and overall contribute to a recovery that is more sustainable.

Three key sectors of the economy - buildings, industry, and transport - offer a great potential for Energy Efficiency. Zooming into buildings and construction sector in Cambodia, from 2000 to 2020, around $59 billion was invested for construction area of 150 million m2. The construction sector employed around 266,500 workers per day nationwide during the past nine months of 2020, which represents an increase of around 80.70% compared to the same period of last year – this is an indicator to say with some confidence that it is a pausing moment, the construction boom will offer immense opportunities in the coming years.
In order to make sure that the right policies & regulations are in place to ensure this growth is sustainable and contributes towards a green economy, UNDP recently launched a Policy Brief on energy efficiency in buildings for accelerating low-carbon development in Cambodia – it includes few in-country case studies.

Major drivers for an increase in final energy consumption is because of increased new building constructions, inefficient energy utilization in existing buildings, and a continuously increasing stock of household electrical appliances. Therefore, energy efficiency standards and regulations are needed to manage this growing energy demand in buildings and avoid "locking in" of inefficient building assets for years to come. This policy brief offers few solutions to save up to 25 percent of the sector's energy demand in 2035. Three key actions are as follows for Cambodia.

  1. Integrate minimum building energy-efficiency requirements in the building technical regulations that is currently being formulated.

  2. Implement building energy reporting systems to collect energy consumption data, which can be used to improve the regulations and design energy efficiency programs. Set energy reduction targets for large buildings will also lower electricity bills and reduce operational costs.

  3. Effective enforcement of building energy regulations through independent assessors for compliance check and create a roster of professionals outside the public sector.

Engaging and mobilising private sector investment is the most important, in reaching the targets of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of Cambodia.