Inclusive Renewable Energy Access in Rural Areas Project Inception Meeting

Remarks by Ms. Sonali Dayaratne, Deputy Resident Representative

April 1, 2022

Excellency Dr. Ty Narin, Secretary of State, Ministry of Mines and Energy
Mr. Kuribayashi Takanori, First Secretary, Embassy of Japan to the Kingdom of Cambodia
Excellencies, esteemed colleagues, ladies, and gentlemen.

Today’s project inception signifies the importance that the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Government of Japan have placed to the electrification of the remaining off-grid villages that are JUST beyond electricity access. Providing such access to these communities is a force for reducing poverty, expanding opportunities, and improving health, productivity and living standards. As the country is recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, access to reliable and affordable energy can be an effective instrument to boost inclusive economic growth for Cambodia, leaving no one behind.

Cambodia has emerged as one of the countries with the highest electrification rates over the last decade. It is commendable that Cambodia has affirmed it does not plan to develop any more new coal-fired power plants, with the exception of those projects already approved by the Royal Government since 2019. What’s more, the country is encouraging investment in clean energy to respond to climate change. Rapid deployment of utility scale solar projects - from 10 MW in 2017 to 372 MW by the end of 2021 - is an indication that Cambodia could make a difference through achievement of its Long-Term Strategy for Carbon Neutrality, provided a similar growth pace is maintained towards renewable energy deployment.

Of the 350 off-grid villages in the country, about 180 off-grid villages are difficult to reach by road. Many of those villages are home to indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, and some of the most vulnerable populations that include women, girls, children, youth, people living with disabilities, older persons, and displaced populations.

UNDP has made a bold commitment to support access to clean energy for 500 million people worldwide by 2025. As research indicates, “Access to energy is an enabler for progress and poverty reduction because modern societies depend heavily on reliable and affordable energy services to function smoothly and develop equitably. Lack of access to energy is a major driver for inequality and vulnerability as energy systems support all sectors from healthcare and education to agriculture, infrastructure, industry, and communication, among others. Besides, access to clean solar energy reduces air pollution, including indoor air pollution affecting mostly women’s health, and greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change”.

So far, the Ministry of Mines and Energy and UNDP have installed mini-grids in four villages. This has provided affordable, reliable and clean energy access to indigenous communities of Ratanakiri Province, and island villagers living on Tonle Sap Lake, Kampong Chhnang Province. More mini-grids are under deployment testing and showcasing business models for private sector financing, and deployment of digital solutions to reduce the operational and maintenance costs of these grids.

I express my sincere appreciation to the Government of Japan, who is a long-term development partner with UNDP and Cambodia. UNDP’s new Strategic Plan and the priorities of the Japanese Government converge in many areas in helping countries address development challenges, that are compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lastly, in supporting the Royal Government of Cambodia to achieve its universal electrification target, and scale up this project from the People of Japan, we call for more development partners to join this movement to support affordable and reliable energy access in leaving no one behind. Together, we could acerate the achievement of Cambodia’s Sustainable Development Goal 7 of access to clean energy, whilst enabling the acceleration of many of the other SDGs.

Let me conclude by thanking the Ministry of Mines and Energy for hosting this project inception meeting, and wish all of you success in this laudable endeavour.

Thank You.