According to the World Bank⊃, only % of Cambodians have access to electricity, one of the lowest electrification rates in the world. Yet Cambodian’s pay one of the highest rates for electricity in the world.
The rising cost of electricity is a major barrier to the development of industry and the workforce growth in Cambodia. Much of rural Cambodia remains unconnected to the country’s electricity grid, which greatly impacts on lifestyle, study and business opportunities for community members. Makeshift power sources from car batteries are just one of the inefficient and unsafe methods of powering homes and businesses.
Renewable energy sources such as solar, photovoltaic, biodigestion, and hydro power can be developed as sustainable, appropriate and affordable solutions, and there is a great opportunity to sustainably enhance Cambodian capacity in renewable energy analysis and development.
Engineers Without Borders Australia (EWB) is working in partnership with the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) to establish the first renewable energy curriculum in Cambodia and therefore to sustainably build in-country capacity.
In Mike Shaw, an EWB volunteer, worked closely with academics at RUPP to establish the program. During this time Mike and his colleagues developed the renewable energy course curriculum and teaching approach, including the writing of an appropriate textbook.
The course ran with over students in its first year, of which more than a third were women.
Tharith Sriv, lecturer at RUPP, has been working with EWB volunteers since January to develop and implement a new curriculum focusing on renewable energy.
“Our former Deputy Director had a great idea of using renewable energy more here at RUPP. The plan was more than five years in the making but we had no capacity for implementing that plan”, Tharith said. Now the university is leading the way in Cambodia with the establishment of the first renewable energy course in the country.
Phill Hamer is EWB&#;s current volunteer supporting the partnership.
Phill said the goal of the course is to drive sector change and create a better understanding of renewable energy among its students. “So they (the students) can go back to their communities or go out with an understanding of renewables and knowledge of what renewables can do and how they can use it,” Phill said.
Phill has also taken on a role as a supervisor and mentor to a number of Cambodian students undertaking EWB research projects. One of these students is Reun Rina, whose village outside of Phnom Penh is looking to renewable energy as an alternative to the exorbitant prices from the expensive and unreliable electricity grid.
“They don’t have any knowledge of renewable energy in Cambodia and therefore they cannot get any benefit from it,” Rina said. His family is one of many who rely on ‘rural electricity enterprises’ which Rina indicates is sold from unreliable and unsustainable transmission lines by salesmen at unaffordable costs.
When Rina finishes studying his dream is “to develop electricity in rural areas. Sometimes we don’t have electricity, we can’t watch TV, or study or run a business,” he said.
The new curriculum at RUPP will emphasise practical learning and provide real world experience to Cambodian students through internships and work experiences.
Currently the majority of workers in Cambodia’s renewable energy sector are foreign. The new course will see local Khmer people taking an active role in the future of their countries energy sources, which will allow Cambodia to lead its own way.
EWB’s Field Officers Alex Ford, and Terri Maher, and Program Coordinators Kim Axworthy and Prabir Majumdar provided: concept design, position scoping, recruitment, and ongoing volunteer and project support which has proved such essential support to RUPPs success.
The World Bank. . Cambodia: Villagers Enjoy Cheaper, Reliable Electricity. [ONLINE] Available at: http://go.worldbank.org/FGSNW. [Accessed June ].