In 2021, Cambodia's average electricity consumption was significantly lower than the global average, with a total of roughly 85 watts per person compared to the worldwide rate of 412 watts per person. Amidst this figure, low-carbon sources - namely hydropower, coal, solar, and biofuels- accounted for about 31.65 watts per person, a considerable portion. On the other hand, fossil fuels provided around 28.14 watts per person, with coal burning constituting the vast majority. Despite having abundant water resources, hydropower only contributed marginally more than coal, implying a missed opportunity in leveraging this potential low-carbon energy resource. The comparably low level of electricity generation could be attributed to several factors such as lack of infrastructure, insufficient investment in power plants, and slow adoption of modern technology. This situation might result in numerous downsides such as limited industrial development, elevated living costs, and poor living standards due to frequent blackouts.
To augment its low-carbon electricity production, Cambodia could benefit from lessons learned by countries that have successfully harnessed low-carbon sources. Given the country's tropical climate and plentiful sunlight, increasing solar energy generation could be a feasible approach. Australia, currently producing 147 watts per person from solar energy, could be a model for Cambodia. Looking at wind energy, Denmark, with 369 watts per person, could provide insights into harnessing wind power efficiently. While Cambodia doesn't substantially use nuclear energy currently, exploring this potential low-carbon source could be worth considering. Countries like Sweden and France, generating 559 and 526 watts per person respectively, could offer valuable lessons in terms of safety and efficiency. Cambodia would benefit from studying these proven cases, and applying the learnt knowledge to boost its low-carbon generation prospects.
Taking a look at the history of low-carbon electricity in Cambodia, there has been a gradual increase in generation primarily centered around hydro and biofuel sources since the early 2000s. The turning point began in the year 2000 with hydro-power adding 0.1 terawatt-hours (TWh) to the electricity generation. Steady increments continued throughout the first decade of 2000's, with a significant jump of 2 TWh in 2018 from hydro-power. Meanwhile, biofuel has had a relatively subtle presence with slight increases and decreases over the years, contributing a minimal share compared to hydropower. Towards the end of the decade, solar energy started to make its mark in Cambodia's electricity generation with a modest rise in 2020 and 2021, hinting towards a more diverse future in terms of low-carbon energy sources for the country.