Energy efficiency, a unique accelerator in the bid for sustainable, inclusive, and resilient growth and the achievement of national climate commitments

November 10, 2022
Manuth Buth/UNDP Cambodia

This piece was originally published in on Asia Times and Khmer Times.


As we all strive to recover from the twin impacts of COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia invasion of Ukraine, charting a new growth path that is more resilient to shocks, more inclusive and less resource intensive has become a top priority. The need for a green transition is high on the global policy agenda and an essential element in the ongoing negotiations at the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt (COP27 – 6-18 November 2022).

Among the various measures put forward to achieve this ambition, enhancing energy efficiency is well recognized as a viable means to deliver quick wins on multiple fronts, from reaching bold climate commitments to ensuring national energy security.

Energy efficiency can contribute to the Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) for reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions and reducing air pollution for the benefit of everybody’s health. It results in using less energy to reach the same outcome by optimizing performance and cutting down on energy waste. This is achieved by adopting better practices, and investing in technology, designs, and materials, contributing directly to easing pressure on the environment, and reducing production costs, allowing more space for improved sustainability, competitiveness, and economic growth.

Energy efficiency is also a key foundation for green growth and sustainable development. For households, energy saved lowers energy bills, making savings available for other spending priorities. For businesses, this means reduced costs, increased competitiveness, and better image, which would serve as competitive edge to attract more investment. Energy efficiency, in this sense, contributes to greening value chains, opening opportunities to gain further access to global markets.

Energy efficiency is an important element of Cambodia’s NDCs and its energy security, which in the light of the Ukraine war impacts has become ever more important. Although not a direct victim of the energy crisis, Cambodia has recognized the need to be energy secure for decreasing its vulnerability to external shocks. The debt crises in some of Cambodia’s neighboring countries, for instance, could exacerbate vulnerability by disrupting supply chains and affecting energy import prices. Cambodia is cognizant of the need to be less dependent on energy imports and less affected by volatile fossil fuel prices, for which investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency would mitigate the effects.

So how can we accelerate energy efficiency?

Behavioral change can go a long way, and practices promoting it can contribute to a gradual shift in the behavior of individuals and businesses. Countries around the world are working on policies and best practices that can promote behavioral change. Initiatives such as the LIFE Clean Energy Transition Programme in the European Union, seek to support development of best practice in energy efficiency addressing behavioral, market, and regulatory barriers to energy efficiency. In Cambodia, amongst other priorities, the Government seeks to promote energy efficiency in buildings. In a pilot scheme funded by the Cambodia Climate Change Alliance, the first Cambodia Energy Efficiency Competition recognized last month twenty-two buildings belonging to 14 companies for achieving energy savings of 9% on average, with the top performer reaching 36% of savings. This was achieved without any investment in new equipment, appliances, or retrofits. The competition relied purely on the commitment and engagement of building users, including offices, commercial spaces, public buildings, and warehouses. This contest also demonstrated a high level of enthusiasm among Cambodian youth, with six participating public universities. Hopefully, such initiatives will be replicated and scaled-up to reach a critical mass of public and private entities and promote energy sensitive behaviors as standard practice.

To accelerate change, investments will be needed. Mechanisms are being put in place by Governments and the private sector. In Cambodia for instance, UNDP partnered with EuroCham, the official chamber of the European business community in the Kingdom, to support a more favorable regulatory framework for Energy Services Companies (ESCOs), providing expertise and financing solutions for clients to implement energy efficiency measures without large upfront capital investments. In the garment, footwear and travel goods industry, the European Union works in partnership with relevant ministries, the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) and brands to support the adoption of energy efficient technologies and practices.

For private sector to invest, clear policy signals are essential. For example, the recently approved Power Development Plan considers energy efficiency in its scenarios, and likewise the National Energy Efficiency Policy to be issued by the end of this year. Other key measures currently under consideration include energy efficiency standards for buildings and key electrical appliances, energy audit and ESCOs market development. These policies, regulations, and standards will provide a clear framework and targets for acceleration of energy efficiency in Cambodia.

Prioritizing the adoption of these measures will put Cambodia on track to achieve a sustainable economic growth that is equitable and resilient with socio-economic gains. As long-term development partners, we welcome Cambodia’s commitments and progress to date in this direction and stand ready to support the Royal Government of Cambodia and the private sector in this important endeavor.


Written by:

H.E. Ms. Carmen Moreno, Ambassador of the European Union in Cambodia
Ms. Alissar Chaker, Resident Representative, UNDP Cambodia


The Cambodia Climate Change Alliance is a partnership funded by the European Union and Sweden, implemented by UNDP, the National Council for Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Environment. It provides support for the country’s national climate action agenda, including strategies, legislation, mobilization of public and private climate finance and funding for innovative adaptation and mitigation initiatives.