Remarks by Chargé d’ affaires Julie Chung at the Enrich Forum on Sustainable Development 2015 “Harnessing Clean Energy for Sustainable Development”

Hotel Cambodiana, Phnom Penh
September 17, 2015

His Excellency Deputy Secretary General Ken Serey Rotha
Distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen
Good morning

It is my great pleasure to join you for today’s forum on “Harnessing Clean Energy for Sustainable Development.” Finding better ways to generate clean and renewable energy is a global priority, and I’m pleased that the U.S. government is supporting the Private Financing Advisory Network-Asia (PFAN) and the Enrich Institute to do just that. I can’t think of a better way to accomplish this than by working with you to encourage investment and entrepreneurship.

As many of you are already aware, energy is a critical component of achieving sustainable development. Almost 70 percent of total greenhouse gas emission is from energy uses. This represents the largest source of greenhouse gas emission worldwide. That is why clean and renewable energy from solar, small scale hydro, biomass, and wind is significant to not only mitigate the impact of climate change, but also to create jobs, especially for the youth, and increase electricity access for the poor.

Poor people usually have to pay far more than rich people for electricity. Without access to the grid, the rural poor have to rely on diesel generator, wood, and charcoal – all expensive, polluting, and unhealthy energy sources. Initiatives like PFAN are supporting clean and renewable energy development by linking ideas to resources, which brings benefits to the environment, the economy, and the people of Cambodia. PFAN has already helped to raise over $1 million of private equity financing for Sun-eee, a Cambodian company for solar and biomass expansion that serves over 4,000 people in remote villages. While highlighting the important role that businesses can play during last month’s National Clean Energy Summit in the United States, President Obama said, “…if you care about climate change, the very fact that companies realize clean energy and energy efficiency are not only cost-effective but cost-saving should give you a big jolt of hope.”

Cambodia depends on imported diesel fuel for nearly all of its energy production, making the electricity prices here one of the highest in the world. Nearly 85 percent of rural households are still in the dark. They are “off the grid” and remain very far from getting connected. Clean and renewable energy has the incredible potential to provide locally produced and cheaper electricity to even the most remote areas. What this means for people in the rural areas is that by powering just one light bulb, children will be able to study at night. I enjoy reading to my son every night and I would hope for any parent to have the same opportunity to share those special moments with their child. Being able to charge a mobile phone means that the families will be able to communicate with each other and receive information about crop prices, and even get medical advice from far away. The application of such technologies is limitless, but it starts with affordable electricity.

We are still in a critical development stage for guaranteeing energy access to all in Cambodia, which means that the country suffers from shortages that hinder its economic growth. You are all here because you know that management of energy production and expanding energy options are crucial for Cambodia to become a middle income country in the next 15 years., something the Prime Minister has emphasizsed as a goal under his Industrial Development Plan. Developing clean and renewable energy sources could give Cambodia the edge that would make it more economically competitive following ASEAN integration. And as we know, clean and renewable energy technologies require new skills in not just engineering, but also in finance, marketing, and construction. Investing in human capital to develop these skills can offer sustainable careers for many young Cambodians.

We are very excited to support platforms like PFAN that bring multiple actors together to tackle complex problems like climate change. We all need to work together – government, private sector, and academics – to figure out how we can use science and technology to drive economic development that is sustainable and equitable. By acting now, we have a chance to create a thriving economy around clean and renewable energy.

Investing in clean and renewable energy is not only good business, it’s part of our responsibility to our planet. The U.S. government is pleased to assist entrepreneurs and investors here in Cambodia through the PFAN-Asia program. We hope this assistance will increase investments in clean energy throughout the country. In particular, I would like to thank the the National Council for Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Environment for its efforts to promote low emission and sustainable development. I would also like to thank civil society representatives, the Cambodian private sector, and research institutes for your efforts to drive this process forward. Lastly, I would like to thank the PFAN-Asia program and the Enrich Institute teams for organizing this important event. I have no doubt you will find today’s forum exceptionally interesting and I wish you all the best in your discussions.

Thank you.