Despite the promising pace of economic growth, access to electricity for consumers and businesses in the poorer areas of Cambodia still remains low. The predominant sources of energy here are typically expensive and environmentally unsustainable.  That’s why at the beginning of last year, with support from the European Union and the Czech Development Agency People in Need launched a four-year project called SWITCH to Solar, which in total will help over a million Cambodians primarily from rural areas.

The goal of the project is to enable small, medium and micro-enterprises switch from using unsustainable energy to solar energy and thus help improve consumer habits in rural areas of Cambodia. The project will thus also support sustainable and inclusive economic growth in rural areas by reducing the environmental impact caused by the energy consumption of these businesses.

This project will also help Cambodia meet its targets for the ASEAN Energy Cooperation Action Plan 2016-2025, in which ASEAN countries aim to achieve an overall higher share of renewable energy by 2025. The project mainly focuses on building local capacity through training or providing necessary assistance, as well as supporting links between relevant actors in the sector, such as solar energy providers, consumers and financial institutions, “says Darina Vlčková from the Czech Development Agency, which is in charge of grant support for tripartite projects.

The project aptly named Switch to Solar takes a systematic approach to developing the market by encouraging demand at the lowest level and supporting supply chain development of solar energy providers. This approach attempts to address the root causes of the shortcomings of the solar sector by cooperating with key actors such as financial institutions, investors and retailers, which will lead to long-term improvements and efficiency gains in the solar energy market.

During the four years of the project, four workshops are planned in which agriculture and fishery experts will serve as mentors to local communities and present the challenges and possible solutions related to the use of “green” technologies. The SWITCH to Solar website was also created in the first quarter of this year. The website reaches a larger number of end users through links with other program actors, project beneficiaries, stakeholders and other relevant actors.

I believe that this project will make a significant contribution to economic independence and improve the living conditions of people in rural areas. Solar is currently one of the most easily introduced and fastest-growing renewable energy technologies. For us to build a sustainable and functional economy, we must focus more on developing sustainable forms of energy,” says Hugo Agostinho, program manager at People in Need. For thirteen years now the organization has been carrying out projects to help people in both rural and urban areas. In addition to projects like Switch to Solar aimed at developing local markets, People in Need also focuses on supporting technical education and developing the EWS1294 early warning system, which is gradually being handed over fully to the Kingdom of Cambodia and will serve as a national system for sending warning messages.

Filip Sebek, Czech Development Agency