Winds are changing in clean energy space at a faster rate!
Written by Butchaiah Gadde
Countries are expected to raise their ambitions in the form of commitments towards Paris Agreement in 2020. Countries are seeing clean energy as an opportunity while economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. China pledged to become carbon neutral before 2060 by rapid expansion of renewable energy and called for a "green recovery" following the pandemic. Similarly, Thailand is aiming to have 30% of its electricity production from renewables within 15 years without any extra cost to the people. It is clear that the green recovery also provides a least cost option for Cambodia as the power demand is projected to increase to 14,000 MW by 2040 from 2,881 MW of installed capacity of power generation in 2019.

In the recent years, the Royal Government has been investing in data collection, cost-benefit analysis and evidence to take informed decisions in selecting best choices for the country. While the country assess possible share of renewable potential on its grid, international experiences clearly shows new technologies and solutions exist to increase share of variable renewable energy (VRE), such as solar PV by updating the national grid code that would allow grid operator to have a better control to switch to other electricity generation systems. This would also include upgrades to the automatic control system (SCADA) for a better operation of the grid. In-house PV forecasting systems would allow to ramp up back up power systems to maintain grid stability. As Cambodia grid is inter-connected with Viet Nam, it offers even more flexibility to have a higher share of solar, up to 30%.
A report of the Royal Government of Cambodia supported by UNDP clearly identified that solar-based electricity is the least cost option for Cambodia - at an all-inclusive rate of 3.9 $US cents/kWh for baseline scenario. This finding corroborates with record low solar power purchase agreement of US$ cents 3.77/kWh that Cambodia showcased through an auction mechanism. Given the grid infrastructure constraints, there is an opportunity for Cambodia to embrace a reasonable share of solar PV in its electricity generation mix. It is considered as the most sustainable way for Cambodia to meet its fast-growing energy needs.

Royal Government of Cambodia is preparing its Power Development Plan for 2020 to 2040. This is an opportunity to embrace new technologies that cost less per unit of electricity generation, has the potential to drive the costs further down, choices that reduce overall investment cost in power sector, has zero impact on environment and health, contribute to country's commitments under Paris agreement in terms of reduced GHG emissions. Choices that not only creates more jobs but are highly skilled, and overall gain to GDP. These parameters must be part of a strategic choice for the government while finalising its power development plan.