At least 15 garment factories are now involved in the Switch Garment project, an initiative to promote sustainable energy enhancement and investment in clean energy technologies in the garment sector in Cambodia.

Launched on September 11, Switch Garment is a joint venture between the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), the Seoul-headquartered treaty-based international organisation Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and French NGO Geres-Cambodia.

GMAC operation manager and Switch Garment chairman Ly Tek Heng told The Post that “many well-known brands are interested in this project”.

He said a number of factories that supply brands and those with direct investment have asked to join the initiative.

“We are recruiting six more factories – we aim to have 20 factories or more,” Tek Heng said.

He said GMAC has been urging members to mount solar panels on roofs.

“Our project is related to energy sustainability, so they [factory owners] are the investors now that the price of electricity in Cambodia is the most expensive in the region.

“They are hence looking at other options that could give their investment a leg-up, such as installing solar panels on roofs, and moving from using firewood to other new options.

“We are looking at replacing light bulbs and boilers for ironing clothes with the new equipment and technologies that factories should use to reduce energy consumption,” he said.

According to Tek Heng, the EU-funded Switch-Asia programme has prepared a €2,995,748 ($3.54 million) budget for the project, which will run from 2020-2024.

Switch-Asia noted that GGGI’s economic modelling projects that a 20 per cent increase in energy efficiency in the garment sector would lead to a 31 per cent surge in energy productivity by 2030 and $2 billion saved in energy costs.

It said: “Cambodia’s garment industry is losing its edge compared to other countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar and Vietnam, given its high energy costs as well as recent increase in the monthly minimum wage, lagging infrastructure, productivity and logistics.

“The cost of electricity from the national grid in Cambodia is the highest in ASEAN. The average energy cost per tonne of garments is $560.

“Energy costs constitute a significant share of the total production costs, contributing 16.7 per cent, which is also higher than neighbouring countries.”