The NGO EnergyLab Cambodia aims to promote clean energy use throughout the Kingdom, and is making inroads in the five provinces that surround the Tonle Sap Lake.
A local organisation which was founded by an Australian in 2018, EnergyLab is currently partnering with NGO People in Need and more than ten solar energy suppliers.
“We focus on supporting those who have the idea or desire to open a new solar business, and provide finance and training for them to make their dreams a reality,” said Chin Sonita, startup programme manager at the organisation.
“We organise workshops to raise awareness on various aspects of the green energy sector, including energy efficiency and electric vehicles. We also help entrepreneurs who are developing technology that could help farmers, like solar water pumps and drying machines,” she told The Post.
She said that although they had seen an increase in the use of solar, the organisation was still introducing farmers to the concept.
“Our partner organisation, People In Need, works directly with farmers to produce presentations and workshops so they can see and understand alternative technologies that can be used in agriculture, while increasing their incomes,” added Sonita.
Im Sou Khim co-founded Harvest the Sun, which supplies solar dryers to fishermen and farmers. She received extensive mentoring from EnergyLab, paving the way for her business to be a success.
“Even as an established company, we still receive additional training from EnergyLab, often related to things as diverse as the technical aspects of solar, or marketing and communications,” she said.
“Our products are used to dry fish, meat, fruit and vegetables, and even pepper or nuts, among other things. Harvest the Sun has customers from all across the Kingdom, from Siem Reap, to Battambang and Kampot,” she explained.
She said that while it was true that the traditional drying method of using direct sunlight had its advantages, her products eliminated the shortcomings of the old fashioned way.
“Sometimes the sun is not strong enough to dry food quickly and safely. According to our studies, a lot of produce is spoiled or unhygienic – often by dust or insects laying their larvae,” she told The Post.
She explained that her smallest driers, which could handle around 40kg at a time, cost about $4,000. There are many sizes available, with a 350kg-capacity machine selling for close to $15,000.
Vorn Chan Raksmey, president of E.G.E Cambodia, Energy Solutions, also received training from EnergyLab, and now works alongside it.
The company supplies solar water pumps – and home solar products – to farms in areas which are not connected to the national grid.
She said EnergyLab supported her from the startup phase, including with business planning, marketing and finance.
She explained that her company offers two types of solar panels and works with the UNDP to offer financing to isolated communities.
“We placed a 30-horsepower solar water pump in Ek Phnom district, Battambang province, which distributes water to 80 rice farmers on 170ha throughout two season’s cultivation. Before, they used a gasoline pump which cost them $70 to $80 per season, but now they only spend $45 with our solar option,” she told The Post.
“They pay us seasonally. If any other communities are interested in making the switch to solar, we can discuss a payment scheme that will suit them,” she added.
Sonita said she couldn’t say exactly how what percentage of farmers had embraced the new tech, but noted that the ones who had were not limited to remote areas.
“Several aquaculture operations have invested in solar dryers, even though they are connected to the national power supply. They recognise the savings they will make in the long run – the environmental benefits are just a bonus,” she added.
She said there were currently several NGO’s working in the field, and added that training and financing was becoming more and more available.
“The momentum of green energy consumption has increased significantly, but it still remains limited. We hope to see that change soon,” she added.