Tourists walk along a beach in Kep province.
Tourists walk along a beach in Kep province. Heng Chivoan

Prospects bright for solar in Kep

The Ministry of Environment has announced its support for a new 10-megawatt solar power development project in the coastal province of Kep to be spearheaded by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), a South Korea-based organisation set up by the UN in 2012 to chart and promote environment-friendly development.

Environment Minister Say Samal voiced his support for the project on Tuesday after GGGI presented its pilot study of a 20-hectare solar power facility that, if developed, would put a dent in the fossil fuel footprint of one of the Kingdom’s main tourist destinations.

Eang Sophallet, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Environment, said yesterday that after accepting the pilot project framework, GGGI will now try to acquire the adequate funding to back the development.

“After we saw the pilot study, we decided that they are ready to try to raise private sector funds as well as funds from developmental partners,” he said. “I think we are finally starting to see the environmental benefits of solar, especially as the cost for renewable energy becomes cheaper.”

While Sophallet could not provide a timeline for the project or the investment capital needed, he said the move was in line with the ministry’s push to make Kep a model province by weaning it off the use of polluting fossil fuels.

“Our strategy is that if we can use Kep to show the potential for how solar can be introduced, it can serve as a model for the rest of the country,” he said. “If this programme is successful we could scale up from 10 megawatts to power the whole of Kep City.”

However, while Victor Jona, board chairman of the Electricite du Cambodge (EdC), applauded the Ministry of Environment’s efforts to promote renewable solutions across the country, he said yesterday that the project has not yet been presented to the necessary state agencies for their approvals to feed power generated by the project into the national grid.

“I am not yet clear on this project, but I think that they [GGGI] are probably trying to secure financing before they bring it to us for consideration,” he said. “The Ministry of Environment is doing a good job in promoting solar, but I doubt they can push forward with this project until they get a power purchasing agreement from the EdC.”

Solar power projects are finally gaining traction in Cambodia, with a $12.5 million 10-megawatt facility in Bavet constructed by the Singapore-based energy provider Sunseap Group and backed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) set to begin operations in August. In addition, the ADB announced last month that it was collaborating with the EdC to develop a massive 100-megawatt solar power park programme.