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Cambodia’s construction and industry boom has forced it to move fast to meet energy demands, even if that scuppers climate mitigation efforts.

Early February this year, Cambodia approved two coal-fired power plants in Oddar Meanchey and Koh Kong provinces. The overall $1.7 billion project, including a transmission line, will generate 965MW of electricity by 2024.

With more in the pipeline amid industrialisation and electrification, the ongoing plan has cast a pall on climate mitigation efforts, forcing a counteractive situation in the Kingdom.

This is a step back for Cambodia, with regards to agreed conventions and protocols on climate change mitigation, said Swedish climate-based NGO Forum Syd.

“Nor is it aligned with the National Strategic Plan on Green Growth [2013-2030]. It could lead to demotivating development partners that invest a lot of resources into climate mitigation work,” it said.

Decades of greenhouse gas emissions from coal-powered plants have contributed to the downwardeffect on the global environment.

As a result, several developed nations, including China, have begun the process of decommissioning coal-burning power plants, widely known as dirty energy.

In Southeast Asia, it is just the opposite.

Driven by exceptional year-on-year gross domestic product (GDP) growth and urbanisation caused by industrialisation, construction, and increased foreign investments, the appetite for more energy has been nothing but voracious.

Five years ago, Japanese firm Chugoku Electric Power Co Inc made a base case projection of 8.8 per cent compound annual growth rate in electricity demand until 2030 for Cambodia.

Energy demand is forecast to rise to 7,700 Gigawatt per hour (GWh) by 2020 and to 18,000GWh by 2030 or a greater than threefold increase relative to demand in 2015.

“This translates to peak demand forecasts of 1,412MW in 2020 and 3,256MW in 2030 versus about 1,000MW in 2016.

“Of the current peak demand, some 70 per cent is used in Phnom Penh,” Chugoku’s data showed, as shared by Asian Development Bank (ADB) in its December 2018 Cambodia Energy Sector Assessment, Strategy and Road Map report.

Energy demand in Southeast Asia makes up five per cent of the global data, a figure that has been rising steadily, revealed the International Energy Agency’s 2019 outlook.

Electricity consumption growth in the region has been among the world’s fastest at six per cent per year since 2000, with demand largely met by an increase in coal-fired power generation, followed by natural gas and hydropower.

In Cambodia, electricity demand rose 18 per cent year-on-year between 2010 and 2016, while power generation grew 19 per cent in that period.