Search

 

Cablegate: Searching for Energy in Cambodia's Waste

VZCZCXRO8566
RR RUEHAST RUEHCHI RUEHDH RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHNH RUEHPB
RUEHPOD RUEHSL RUEHTM RUEHTRO
DE RUEHPF #0027/01 0150158
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150158Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1552
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000027

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EEB/CBA/JTHOMPSON, OES/PCI/SMIRZA, AND EAP/RSP
DEPT PASS TO USTDA/ROSSITER
DEPT PASS TO EPA
BANGKOK FOR REO/HHOWARD, USAID/RDMA/SWALTER, AND USTDA/DUNN
HO CHI MINH FOR FAS/MRIEDEL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EAGR ENRG EAID EIND CB
SUBJECT: SEARCHING FOR ENERGY IN CAMBODIA'S WASTE

REF: A) 09 PHNOM PENH 283, B) 09 PHNOM PENH 747

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

1. (U) SUMMARY. Although large-scale solutions to Cambodia's energy
issues have dominated national and regional attention, NGOs and
investors are starting to realize the energy potential in the
country's farms, trash bins, and landfills. Studies estimate a
potential generation of 18,852 GWh per year from all biomass waste
products, even half of which is comparable to several of Cambodia's
planned hydropower dams. The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC),
NGOs, and private investors have begun to explore this potential
through small pilot projects, such as biogas from rice husks, char
briquettes from coconut waste, and methane capture from livestock
and landfills. With the right support from the U.S., for example
through the U.S.-Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), Cambodia could
further develop its clean energy potential, saving money and
greenhouse gas emissions. END SUMMARY.

CAMBODA'S ENERGY SECTOR: WOOD AND DIESEL
------------------------------------------

2. (U) Most Cambodians lack access to reliable energy supplies,
making cooking and transportation the primary forms of energy
consumption. Wood alone drives 80% of Cambodian energy use,
partially for commercial purposes but primarily through direct
burning or charcoal combustion in domestic cooking stoves, a
traditional Cambodian preference. According to environmental NGO
Geres, 90,000 tons of wood charcoal feed Phnom Penh's annual energy
demands alone. A 2009 Geres study found that Cambodia's garment
industry also consumed significant quantities of wood -- over 2
million cubic feet each month -- to produce steam for ironing and
dyeing clothes. This heavy use of firewood and charcoal has
contributed to Cambodia's deforestation rates, greenhouse gas
emissions, and instances of respiratory illness.

3. (U) The limited availability of electricity has similarly posed
challenges to Cambodia's economic growth, environment, and health
sectors. Only about 18 percent of the population is connected to
the electricity grid, which runs on diesel generators, and only
major urban areas have power 24 hours a day. Rural Cambodians pay
among the world's highest prices for their electricity at as much as
50 to 60 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to an average of 10 cents
in the U.S. RGC officials complain, rightly so, about how the cost
of electricity is a barrier to attracting industry and investors and
limits services that facilities like health centers can provide.

CAMBODIA'S POTENTIAL FOR ENERGY FROM BIOMASS
--------------------------------------------

4. (U) The RGC has emphasized large-scale energy solutions such as
hydropower dams to address its energy issues. According to multiple
studies, however, biomass such as agricultural and municipal waste
has the potential to become another significant, sustainable energy
source; waste biomass can be used by direct combustion or can be
converted into biogas or a range of liquid biofuels. A 2004 study
by the Cambodian Ministry of the Environment (MOE), the Cambodian
Research Center for Development (CRCD), and the Institute for Global
Environmental Studies in Japan (IGES) estimated a potential
generation of 18,852 GWh per year from waste products alone. (NOTE:
This figure assumes that all waste products would be used for energy
generation, which is unlikely. However, according to the same
study, the production potential of 20 proposed hydropower projects
showed a combined annual generating potential of only 8,839.97 GWh
per year, so even half of Cambodia's biomass potential could be
significant in comparison. END NOTE.)

AGRICULTURAL CASTOFFS MADE INTO ENERGY
--------------------------------------

5. (U) Through small pilot projects, NGOs and private investors have
recently begun to explore the most appropriate mechanisms for
biomass energy production in Cambodia. Social enterprise SME
Renewable Energy, for example, started in 2005 and now has 30
clients running biogasifiers on fine grains, corn cobs, and rice
husks, which still release greenhouse gas emissions, although at a
reduced rate. SME's clients include rice mills, ice plants, brick
factories, and hotels. SME Managing Director Rin Seyha explained to
ESTHOff that with a little help on upfront investments, primarily in
the form of better interest rates on business loans, enterprises
that took advantage of energy production from biomass could realize
substantial long-term savings. An average 2 ton per hour rice mill
could reduce its diesel consumption by approximately 15,800 gallons
of fuel per year, a savings of $30,000. SME's 30 clients have
collectively reduced diesel consumption by up to 527,000 gallons per

PHNOM PENH 00000027 002 OF 002


year, saving them $750,000 to $1 million and over 6,000 tons of
carbon dioxide emissions, all by using materials that were
essentially garbage as fuel.

GREEN COOKING WITH COCONUT CHARCOAL
-----------------------------------

6. (U) Other organizations have begun to confront the issue of
charcoal usage for cooking. For example, in 2004 Geres started to
develop char briquettes from coconut waste and other industrial
charcoal residues. The production process is energy efficient, with
heat from the burning process being recaptured in a funnel and used
to dry the waste biomass. When Phnom Penh's primary landfill, Stung
Meanchey, closed in 2009, Geres established a new "Sustainable Green
Fuel Enterprise" near the site to produce and commercialize the char
briquettes.

7. (U) The enterprise set a production target of 1,100 pounds of
briquettes each day by the end of 2009, with plans to double
production by 2011. Although the price of the briquettes is
currently slightly higher than that of traditional charcoal, Geres
has noted that average charcoal prices have increased significantly
from year to year (up 240% between 2007 and 2008 alone) as wood
becomes more difficult to procure, so the briquettes will steadily
become more competitive. This small enterprise alone, if
successful, will reduce Cambodia's carbon emissions by an estimated
1,604 tons per year and employs up to 16 local residents.

CAPTURING METHANE FROM FARMS AND LANDFILLS
------------------------------------------

8. (U) According to the MOE, the Cambodian agriculture sector
contributes about 18% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions.
Methane-capture projects that would lower some of these emissions
have been slower to take off but still represent another potential
source of biomass energy. One of the MOE's Clean Development
Mechanism (CDM) projects, for example, is a methane-capture project
at a pig farm in Kandal Province. Under the project, the Samrong
Thom Animal Husbandry piggery uses an anaerobic reactor digestion
system to capture methane generated from the facility's waste water,
which is then used to fuel a generator to supply electricity to the
farm. The second phase of the project will expand production to
supply electricity to other local users through a rural electricity
enterprise (REE).

9. (U) A German company has also explored potential methane-capture
schemes using organic and municipal waste at the Stung Meanchey
landfill, which could potentially supply enough electricity to serve
3,000 families. A company spokesperson said that the project would
be implemented over the next 15 years. However, Toch Sovanna,
Director of the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy's (MIME)
Renewable Energy Department, said that as of year's end the company
was still looking for partners with whom to implement the project.


COMMENT
-------

10. (SBU) There has been significant attention paid to Cambodia's
large-scale energy development plans, but the kinds of energy
solutions that deliver the most benefits to average Cambodians are
smaller, more localized generation programs. The LMI provides an
opportunity for the USG to support expansion of these types of
solutions. For example, Post is encouraging Cambodia under the LMI
to join the International Methane to Markets Partnership and would
welcome Department support to expand U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency or other USG technical support for the Partnership in
Cambodia.

11. (SBU) The Cambodian government may also benefit from learning
about other countries' experiences in rolling out small-scale
renewable energy technologies. For example, Post invited an
American expert on regulations that promote Very Small Power
Producers (VSPPs) to present at the recent USG-sponsored GMS Energy
Conference (Ref B); RGC officials subsequently expressed interest in
exploring VSPP regulations for Cambodia. An exchange where RGC
energy officials could see Thailand's VSPP program in action could
be a useful activity to advance the initiative.


RODLEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

UN: India’s New COVID-19 Wave Is Spreading Like ‘Wildfire’, Warns UN Children’s Fund

7 May 2021 A new wave of COVID-19 infections is spreading like “wildfire” across India, leaving many youngsters destitute, the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF said on Friday. In the last 24 hours, India registered 3,915 coronavirus deaths and 414,188 ... More>>

UN: Decades Of Health Gains At Risk In Brazil Due To COVID-19

Although COVID-19 cases are declining in Brazil, the pandemic is putting decades of public health gains there at risk, the head of the World Health Organization ( WHO ) said on Friday. With global attention and support focused this week ... More>>

UN Report: Myanmar Approaching Point Of Economic Collapse

The turmoil following the military coup in Myanmar, coupled with the impact of COVID-19 could result in up to 25 million people – nearly half of the country’s population, living in poverty by early next year, a United Nations report said on Friday. That ... More>>


Focus On: UN SDGs

Study: Cut Methane Emissions To Avert Global Temperature Rise

6 May 2021 Methane emissions caused by human activity can be reduced by up to 45 per cent this decade, thus helping to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to a UN-backed ... More>>

UN: Learning From COVID-19, Forum To Highlight Critical Role Of Science, Technology And Innovation In Global Challenges

New York, 4 May —To build on the bold innovations in science, technology and innovations that produced life-saving solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN will bring together experts to highlight measures that can broaden the development and deployment ... More>>

What COVID-19 Has Taught Us: “Healthcare Can No Longer Exist Without Technology”

A grandmother in a village in the Gambia should have the same quality of life and access to healthcare they deserve as in New York or London. Photo: InnovaRx Global Health Start-up Works To Bridge Healthcare Gap In The Gambia By: Pavithra Rao As ... More>>