Remarks by Ambassador William A. Heidt at Earth Day Solar Panel Launch Event

U.S. Embassy, Phnom Penh
April 24, 2018

Good morning everyone, and thanks for joining us for our 2018 Earth Day celebration!  Today we are excited to officially launch the U.S. Embassy’s new solar panel system and to host our annual Recycled Products Bazaar and Farmers Market!

Thank you especially to your Excellency Khut Chandara, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Environment, for joining us here today.  Thank you also to all the vendors who are joining us to show off their local, environmentally-friendly products.

A group of civil society organizations in the United States came up with Earth Day back in 1970 to demonstrate support for environmental protection and the responsible use of our natural resources.  It has since spread to more than 190 countries around the world.

The theme of this year’s Earth Day is ending plastic pollution, which reflects the growing alarm over the huge amounts of plastics flowing into the ocean.  Of course, most of the plastics that are dumped into the Mekong River will eventually flow into the ocean, so it’s very appropriate that we are holding a recycled products bazaar today.

Earth Day got its start during a period of enviromental activism in the United States.  It’s very gratifying to see that same spirit of environmentalism growing among Cambodia’s young people as well.  I want to congratulate His Excellency Khut Chandara for your Ministry’s very important work protecting Cambodia’s forests, rivers, and territorial waters.

The installation of the 940 brand new solar panels on the U.S. Embassy’s rooftop was a long time in the making.  I am very happy to welcome back to Phnom Penh today the “mother” of this project, our former facilities manager Susan Meyerson.

While working here, Susan was dedicated to creating a more environmentally-friendly U.S. Embassy, which is a legacy that we have tried to continue even after she moved on to her next assignment.

Under Susan’s stewardship, we started a recycling program to benefit our Locally Employed Staff, created a Green Team to work with local environmental organizations, and installed hundreds of high-efficiency LED lights.  We even changed the food packaging in our cafeteria to more environmentally friendly materials.

As a result of her efforts, we were very proud that U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh was chosen as the State Department’s Post of the Year for the Greening Diplomacy Initiative 2017.  That means we are one of the greenest U.S. Embassies anywhere in the world!

Our current Facilities Manager, Chris Grawburg has done a terrific job completing this project and carrying forth the work of the Green Team.  So thank you very much Susan and Chris.

Solar panels like the ones we will initiate today are an investment in the future.  They help protect the environment and demonstrate that renewable energy investments can work in Cambodia.  We invested $1 million in installing  these 940 solar panels, and we are now proud to be the eighth largest producer of solar power electricity of all U.S. Embassies across the world.

I also believe we may be the first embassy in Phnom Penh to install solar panels.  These solar panels will pay for themselves in 19 years, and in the meantime we will reduce the Embassy’s electricity bill by about $65,000 per year and produce 240 kW of power.  That is enough to electrify 250 small houses!

We are proud to have made this investment in Cambodia’s environmental future, and we hope everyone here at the Embassy will also help in their own way to help prevent pollution and keep Cambodia clean.

For that reason, we have also asked Embassy staff to make an Earth Day pledge, and you can see the string of these cards on display here showing all of our pledges.  We have a saying in the United States to think globally and act locally, and that is exactly what we are trying to do here today.

With that, I would like to hand the floor over to Susan say a few words.  Thank you all!