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World Bank Newsletter: Powering the People of Cambodia

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The World Bank has produced a newsletter on its energy projects in Cambodia: with headlines such as Power to People. The newsletter from December 2010 can be downloaded here. It offers interesting reading on the achievements and targets of World Bank’s rural electrification programs in Cambodia. Interestingly the main stage seems to be set for grid extensions and grid connections whereas the off-grid elements and small-scale renewable energy are not receiving much attention.

World Bank supported Rural Electrification Fund seem to have performed well in its new connection program in terms of reaching the targets. At the same time the off-grid components appear to be lacking behind. But these aspects are not explored in the newsletter. Both the grant assistance for solar companies and for the small hydropower and biomass have been almost complete failures. Last year the solar program was revised and Cambodia started to follow Laos model on solar home systems i.e. a bulk purchase model with a several years payment scheme for the users. The ambitious plan is to have 12 000 installments by January 2012.

The slow progress on sustainable renewable energy solutions is unfortunate as Cambodia is truly at the crossroads. The current situation of low electrification and lack of more traditional centralized gird systems could offer a chance for “leapfrogging”. This would require ambitious and serious thinking of how to enable and empower small and very small power producers. A promising base for this direction has been laid by a report Powering 21st Century Cambodia with Decentralized Generation authored by Grynne Ryder.

Under our DREAM-project we continue to assess the reasons for failures and success of renewable energy projects in Cambodia and Laos.