The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) is aiming to electrify all the villages with reliable and affordable electricity leaving no one behind to achieve its goal of 100% electrification. By the end of 2020, 370 villages are non-electrified, among those 210 villages are classified by the Electricity Authority of Cambodia as "hard to reach". The RGC is aiming to get at least 168 villages connected to the national electricity grid over the next 5 to 7 years. Stung Treng province has the lowest electrification rate of 74.2% of villages electrified with 33 villages remaining to be electrified. Ratanakiri Province has 85.6% of the villages electrified with 35 remaining villages. Ratanakiri Province has the highest number of indigenous communities in Cambodia, these indigenous ethnic minorities are often neglected as part of mainstream development. The Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) through the General Department of Energy (GDE) is exploring the potential of different technologies to electrify these villages. Some of these villages will take a few years before they can be connected to the national grid. For few of these villages, grid connection is not a feasible option—not economically viable and geographically difficult to reach. In such case, by using the available renewable energy resources in off-grid areas, communities shall be provided with appropriate renewable energy solutions that are affordable and reliable. The last mile is always the most challenging, but it is a crucial step to universal electrification UNDP has the mandate to support the implementation of SDGs, more specifically SDG 7.1 targeting universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services for all. As part of Energy Compact, UNDP recently committed to help increase access to clean and affordable energy for 500 million people globally. In achieving this last mile connectivity every village must be connected with a reliable electricity supply. UNDP is supporting the GDE to explore the potential technologies based on the available renewable energy resources in off-grid areas. Field assessment in Ratanakiri Province conducted in February 2021 indicated that villages with indigenous communities are being impacted disproportionately with no access to electricity, low literacy rate, and inability to afford to pay for electricity. UNDP partnered with International Cooperation Cambodia (ICC), a local NGO who has been working with these communities on various projects including promoting literacy among children, and adults in the village with a focus on how to read and write apart from various poverty alleviation related activities. It is therefore of particular importance to improve the lives and livelihoods of indigenous communities through providing electricity access. Through interaction with these communities, it was identified that, especially women and girls are being disproportionally disadvantaged and deprived of opportunities without access to electricity. Households in these villages have been relying on firewood for cooking, mostly sourced from the forest. Women and girls spend their quality time in the collection of firewood and are being exposed to kitchen smoke and flume while cooking food. Some households in the village have toilets outside their homes, making it difficult for women and children at night time. Children in these villages were struggling to learn due to the lack of electricity to turn on TV or charge their phone in order to access distance learning during the pandemic, or even to read books when they have free time before going to bed. Access to clean, affordable, and reliable electricity could further allow the remote indigenous communities to improve their livelihoods and economic activities, and exercise their rights to basic services, i.e., education, information, and communication. When households have access to affordable and reliable electricity, past experience demonstrated that they tend to use more household appliances, i.e. lighting, electric cooker etc. These appliances are improving the quality of lives of women and girls, especially electric cooker reduces their dependence on firewood, reduces burden of women and girls to collect firewood, spend more time for other productive purposes and income generating activities, reduced exposure to indoor air pollution, lighting at night that allows girls to extend self-learning and safety. The experience in Steung Chrov village, Kampong Chhang province, shows that access to electricity open up livelihood opportunity for women and create local employment. Pumping is another public purpose, used to secured drinking water. Solar mini-grids are a game changer One mini-grid was installed at Pa Tang village of Ratanakiri, home to Jarai indigenous people with a total population of 341 with 173 male and 168 females. They have access to electricity since operation in July 2021. The mini grid is a solar based mini grid equipped with batteries energy storage for 24/7 energy access. The installation of solar mini grid in remote communities such as Pa Tang village was completed in a short time, requiring no heavy equipment and with less environmental impacts in the location. The operation of such mini grid requires minimal training to local ordinary persons to operate the solar mini grid effectively. The ease of installation and operation presents the solar mini grid as a right choice of technology for providing reliable, affordable, and clean energy access to remote communities. Pa Tang village has a village development committee (VDC). The scope of this committee was expanded to manage and operationalise the mini-grid including fixing a reasonable electricity price that is affordable to all the community, collect revenues, and reasonably invest the collected funds for local development of the village apart from successfully operating and maintaining the mini-grid system including local electricity distribution network. Women were represented at the decision-making level of VDC. The sustainability of the mini grid is enhanced because of strong ownership of the VDC to oversee the mini grid. UNDP is working with MME to expand this cost-effective energy access solution across four more villages of Ratanakiri province during last quarter of 2021 to improve the lives of families in remote villages to access reliable, affordable and clean energy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *