Cambodia: Improving lives with solar energy

Cambodia: Improving lives with solar energy

Mrs Sor Sar Ngoun is a 57 year-old woman living in Topsrov village, Rolear Pear District, in the Kampong Chhnang province of Cambodia. She has four children, her youngest daughter still lives with her, and the other 3 have all moved to Phnom Penh for work and study. The family’s main livelihood is growing rice and cash crops, from which they earn around 1500 USD per year. Her husband has an additional retirement allowance of 1200 USD per year.

Seven months ago, Mrs Sor gave up on ever being connected to the national electricity grid and purchased a 100 watt solar home system, replacing the single car battery that they previously used to power a single light in their home.

Using a car battery as an energy source was time consuming and expensive, costing the family approximately $157 a year. The battery had to be replaced twice year due to low durability and the family had to bring the battery to a diesel generator charging station at least once a week. The charging station was a long distance away and one charge delivered only 600 Watt hours, enough to power one light and a TV for a short time each night. The solar system delivers 5 times the energy and requires no effort from the family.

Rural entrepreneurs

Mrs Sor decided to buy a solar home system after she was introduced to the technology by a rural sales entrepreneur from her village. People in Need identify, train and equip solar entrepreneurs in the province to sell accredited solar products, in partnership with Kamworks solar enterprise. Using this market-led approach delivers both a source of income for the entrepreneur and their family and delivers quality products and services to their customers, which in turn leads to word of mouth promotion and technology adoption within communities.

Micro loans enable access

Mrs Sor purchased the system by accessing a low interest micro-loan directly from the solar company using the Kiva.com peer to peer lending scheme. The family now makes monthly payments of $32 using mobile banking services from Wing, a mobile banking service provider in Cambodia, and will pay back the loan in two years. The solar system will be a reliable source of energy for more than 20 years, with the only cost for her family being the replacement of the solar battery every 3 to 4 years (which costs USD 100-150). The money that she saves by not maintaining a car battery system pays for almost 5 months of the loan repayments each year.

The benefits of reliable energy

Mrs Sor and her family are enjoying the benefits of a reliable and plentiful supply of electricity. She finds cooking at night time much easier with better lighting and her daughter is able to study for longer once it gets dark. Having more lights in and around the house also helps the family feel safer. The family can access information and entertainment from the TV for 3 to 5 hours a day if they want, which has contributed to making her family happier than they were before. Ultimately, Mrs Sor is looking forward to the day they have paid off the loan and will have a free supply of energy. She is very impressed with the technology and believes that it was a good investment for her family. 

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Author: PIN