Sin Thy lives with his family in Chroy Banteay, 45 minutes from Kratie downtown. Like 10.5 million Cambodians, he has been struggling with unreliable energy sources for years. Where he lives, there is no electrical grid, and the situation is not going to change any time soon.
Rural Cambodia’s Growing Energy Demand
"Living without reliable power was very difficult,” explained Sin Thy.
As nearly half of the people living in his village, Thy would use car batteries to produce electricity. "But I was not happy with this solution," he said. The battery would discharge quickly, and every other day he had to take it to Chroy Banteay’s charging station. “It weighs more than 15 kilos, and carrying it on my motorbike was not easy, especially when it rained.”
Moreover, Thy was always afraid of running out of power. “There was no charge display, and I could never know how much electricity I had left.” Whenever it happened he could not light his house anymore; but the fan and the television wouldn’t work either.
In December 2013 Sin Thy purchased a solar home system.
"I had started thinking about it a while ago, he said. But with my wife we were first reluctant. For us it was a major investment; and we wanted to be sure we would buy an efficient and long-lasting system."
Thy made up his mind during a community meeting organized by Kamworks in Chroy Banteay. "Before attending the meeting, he added, I had no idea that it takes less than a day to fully charge a solar battery. And when Kamworks’ representatives told me that with their 100-watt solar system I could power all the appliances I needed, I thought it could be the right solution for my family."
Kamworks’ maintenance service as well as the products warranty — 20 years for the panels and 2 years for the batteries — further convinced Thy and his wife that they should make the leap. "For us it was a sign of quality."
However willing Thy was to purchase a solar system, he still could not afford it. He is a rice farmer and with his highly variable revenues he does not have so much cash at his disposal.
Well aware of the issue, Kamworks has partnered with renowned microfinance institutions in order to offer reliable credit solutions to its clients. For Thy, it made all the difference and, as 90 percent of Kamworks’ rural customers, he took a loan to finance the purchase.
"Solar energy has improved my daily life"
Seven months later, Sin Thy believes he took the right decision. "Having a solar home system has really made my life much easier." Today he can go to work and does not have to worry about his battery anymore. "I know that my household will not lack electricity."
Even more importantly Kamworks’ 100-watt solar system has kept its promise, and it generates enough energy to meet all the needs of Thy’s family. Today they can power altogether four lamps, a fan, two mobile phones and a television for several hours.
"And I can even spend the night playing karaoke discs on TV with my friends!"
DENNY ESSERS | Cambodian SUN Program Manager
1. Can you tell us more about Kamworks’ Cambodian SUN program?
Cambodian SUN program was started in July 2013 in order to improve rural people’s access to solar energy. This has always been Kamworks’ mission but this time we go one step further by partnering with microfinance institutions (MFI). Thus we can now offer a credit solution to our clients, whereas before they had to find it by themselves. This approach is very new in Cambodia’s solar industry.
2. Why is it important to have MFIs involved?
We believe this is critical to the success of Cambodian SUN program! MFIs not only provide credit facilities; they also bring us their expertise. We work with well-established organizations; and whether it is VisionFund, VDA or Maxima, they all have a precise knowledge of the local market. They help us identify the villages with the most urgent energy needs; and in the areas where Kamworks has never operated we even benefit from their reputation locally. As most villagers are risk-adverse this is of great value.
3. How do the rural people respond to your offer?
In the countryside everything takes time but the results are very encouraging. Today Kamworks is implementing the program in Kratie, Kandal, and Kampong Chhnang provinces; and nearly 90 percent of our customers living in these regions have taken the loan. It shows that we are addressing an actual need!