Press Release
Clean Energy Entrepreneurs Call For Financing Support
Phnom Penh, 20th March 2024
During Wednesday's workshop on"Bolstering Blended Finance to Promote Solar Tech Entrepreneurship in the Agri-Fishery Sector", at the Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh, stakeholders involved in promoting clean energy in the agri-fishery sector called for more innovative financing solutions and investment for clean energy development. The call was for investment in a blended form, both grants and loans.

The emergence of solar tech startups has become a pivotal force driving sustainable agriculture practices and development across the entire supply chain, from production and processing to storage and transportation. Dr. Michael Renfrew, Operations and Program Lead at EnergyLab, one of the workshop organisers, explained "Clean technologies, such as solar power, are crucial to tackling the dual challenge of climate change adaptation and the need to minimise use of dwindling fossil fuel reserves. In the agri-fisheries sector, emerging 'cleantech' small and medium enterprises are pioneering products to address both challenges simultaneously. However, their growth and stability are too often constrained by limited access to suitable financing options."

The workshop featured prominent speakers and panelists from a wide range of sectors and perspectives, discussing how a blend of different innovative financing options was needed to support cleantech initiatives.

Ms. Thida Kheav, CEO and Founder of SOGE Cambodia, a leading solar technology company argued that "Access to innovative financing remains a critical barrier for solar tech entrepreneurs in the agri-fishery sector" and urged relevant stakeholders to tailor innovative financing solutions to support the growth of solar tech entrepreneurs in Cambodia."

Ms. Cecile Dahome, CEO and Founder of Sevea, emphasized the significant potential of solar tech entrepreneurship in the Cambodian market. She argued for sensible innovative financing options to meet entrepreneurs' needs, highlighting that "potential innovative financing mechanisms–such as concessional capital or guarantee/risk insurance–are needed to unlock investment opportunities and drive impactful projects in renewable energy adoption to support the continued growth of solar tech entrepreneurs."

Currently , blended financing mechanisms are still relatively new in the Cambodian context. Red Hat Impact's Director, Mr. Ian Jones, underscored that "while it is quite new for Cambodia, blending different types of financing can diversify and mitigate risk for private investors and encourage them to participate in solar technology or renewable energy entrepreneurship in the agri-fishery sector."

Mr. Pisey Kroch from Chamroeun Microfinance PLC also stressed that "strengthening blended financing to support solar technology entrepreneurship within the agri-fisheries sector could stimulate market development, create new employment opportunities and encourage SMEs to expand their investment in the modernisation and sustainability of Cambodia's agricultural and fisheries industries."

Despite the potential opportunities that blended financing presents for clean energy entrepreneurship, barriers remain. Ms. Sola Heng, Project Manager and Business Development Advisor at SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, raised concerns that "Cambodia's burgeoning solar and renewable energy enterprises face significant hurdles in securing needed financing. Without an effective aggregator model, these companies struggle to pool their financing needs, thereby hindering their access to vital blended financing options and obstructing opportunities essential for growth."

At the end of the workshop, speakers and panelists said blended financing models could be a catalyst for entrepreneurial growth. Ian Jones spotlighted that "Agri-fishery presents opportunities for collaboration across the clean energy sector for blended financing mechanisms, such as a revolving fund for inventory financing and working capital, to facilitate cash flow for solar panel importers or ventures contracted by INGOs with irregular payments."

Ms. Sokrina San, Manager of Product Development and Cooperation from Credit Guarantee Corporation of Cambodia (CGCC), also shared her perspective that "Blended financing, a combined available fund from different sources, could play a pivotal role in advancing financing inclusion and fostering the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). By leveraging diverse funding sources, blended financing not only mitigates risks but also promotes sustainable economic development. It bridges gaps, empowers entrepreneurs, and catalyzes innovation, ultimately contributing to a more resilient and inclusive financial ecosystem."

The event concluded with a call to action for investment groups to proactively support sustainable growth of solar technology entrepreneurship through innovative approaches. Dr. Michael Renfrew said "the opportunity to accelerate the Kingdom's switch to solar through Cambodia-founded business is considerable. A key step forward in this process is the provision of innovative financing options. These must be designed with an emphasis on unlocking entrepreneurship while lowering the risk for investment firms."

About Switch to Solar Startup Program
Switch to Solar is a four-year project funded by the European Union and Czech government, implemented by People In Need, with partners EnergyLab and Sevea. The project,launched in 2020, aims to promote Sustainable Consumption Practices (CSP) among Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) by increasing access to solar solutions and finance. EnergyLab is running the SWITCH to Solar Startup program, as part of the Switch to Solar project, which nurtures solar technology for the agri-fishery market. Implemented by People In Need, EnergyLab, and Sevea, the project hosts a series of networking events.

About EnergyLab
Founded in 2018, EnergyLab Cambodia is an innovative and efficient not-for-profit organisation working to support the growth of Clean Energy. Since our establishment, we have been recognised by our partners as independent, insightful and resourceful, with a transparent agenda to support Clean Energy.

Address: G1101, GIA Tower, Sopheak Mongkul Street, Koh Pict City, Sangkat Tonle Bassac, Khan Chamkamorn, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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