Power Plan Focuses on Renewable Energy

Cambodia’s Power Development Plan 2022-2040 outlines plans to boost the nation’s network, inject more renewable energies into the grid, push energy efficiency measures and deliver affordable and reliable electricity
Workers on electric pole in Phnom Penh. Picture: Sam
Workers on electric pole in Phnom Penh. Picture: Sam

Cambodia's Power Development Plan (PDP) for 2022 to 2040 aims to expand the high-voltage network, promote renewable energy sources and minimize environmental impacts, while delivering affordable and reliable energy to all sectors.

According to the PDP, it will cost $9,089 million to expand domestic generation capacity. A total of $2,539 million has already been earmarked for ongoing projects until 2025. The remaining $6,550 million will be invested in planned hydropower dams, solar PV plants, BESS, natural gas, and biomass from 2026 onwards.

The PDP offers an effective strategy to transition towards a cleaner power grid while adhering to existing government agreements. The plan focuses on reducing emissions through the deployment of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency upgrades, and importing power from neighbouring systems through interconnections.

The PDP outlines a comprehensive long-term plan for Cambodia's power sector that includes forecasts of demand, expansion of generation, and a plan for transmission and distribution from 2022 until 2040.

Cambodia's power system has experienced impressive growth in demand over the past decade, with peak demand rising from 508 MW in 2012 to 2,026 MW in 2021, averaging an annual growth rate of 19 percent.

Cambodia achieved a high village electrification rate of 98.27 percent by mid-2022, a significant improvement from just 34 percent in 2010, due to the rapid development of power system infrastructure.

The final generation expansion plan for Cambodia's power sector from 2022 to 2040 is to increase the uptake of variable renewable energy and energy savings per the NEEP because it offers a balanced strategy for meeting demand while adhering to climate and environmental commitments, maximising domestic renewable energy, and excluding the development of additional new coal plants and hydro dams on the mainstream Mekong River.

Low-carbon energy alternatives to uncommitted projects in the scenario will be evaluated and considered in the future, including emerging technologies such as Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS) and hydrogen.

The PDP outlines that the transmission development plan will require a total investment of $1,796 million to expand the high-voltage (HV) network infrastructure. This includes $816 million in priority projects committed by 2025, and another $980 million between 2022 and 2040 to install new 230 and 500 kV lines, transformers, and upgrades to enhance resilience.

San Chey, Executive Director at The Affiliated Network for Social Accountability-Cambodia, said that the PDP highlights long-term projects for electricity supply from urban to rural areas. He added it should also prioritize affordability to ensure more consumers can benefit from it.

“It is important to keep the price of electricity in mind to ensure that it is affordable for consumers in various sectors. Despite development, water and electricity supply go hand-in-hand,” he said.

There are infrastructure issues in rural and urban areas, specifically the lack of lighting on roads. Chey added that Cambodia needs more investment in sustainable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. Furthermore, MME should pay closer attention to these issues and prioritize sustainable energy initiatives.

He said that it is important to remain open-minded and receptive to feedback from users to identify and address any potential concerns in the provision of electronic services. It is crucial to express and raise concerns in order to encourage improvements in the provision of electricity services.

“Constructive criticism should be welcomed in the provision of electricity services, as past issues have often been caused by misunderstandings or technical difficulties that consumers do not fully understand, resulting in high costs despite low consumption,” said Chey.

By the end of 2022, Cambodia had achieved a village electrification rate of 98.27 percent. There remain only 245 villages, or 1.73 percent of existing villages, beyond the reach of the distribution network due to remote location, lack of road access, or natural barriers.

According to UNDP, Cambodia has been actively embracing renewable energy sources and has successfully increased its renewable generation capacity from 10 MW in 2017 to 372 MW by the end of 2021, and is expected to have a total solar power capacity of 1,815 MW on its grid by 2030.

Cambodia achieved a regional record low solar power purchase agreement (PPA) of 3.87 cents/kWh via tender, demonstrating that solar PV can yield some of the most cost-competitive prices for new electricity supply in the country.

Heng Kimhong, of Cambodian Youth Network, said Cambodia can produce 60 percent of its electricity demand, with the rest to be fulfilled. “I support that the government is not willing to build a line in the Mekong River, and other water flows in the river is also a concern. Lower Sesan II hydropower dam in Stung Treng produces huge electricity but, in return, has flooded indigenous homes.”

He added that he supports the government in its pledge to increase sustainability energy in Cambodia and implement an incentive tax for the solar sector. Kimhong also suggested the government should reduce hydropower construction and turn to renewable energy while encouraging local investors to participate in the production.

The PDP for 2022 to 2040 was published in September 2022 by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) in collaboration with Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC).

The PDP was developed by an Australia-based technical working group, Intelligent Energy System Pte Ltd (IES). After development, the PDP underwent a review process by an inter-ministerial committee led by the MME before receiving final approval from the RGC.