Cambodia’s move to incentivize rooftop solar is a powerful opportunity for the tourism industry, experts say

Posted on November, 23 2023

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA (23 November) – One of the world’s fastest growing countries recently launched Principles for Permitting the Use of Rooftop Solar Power in Cambodia, a document that will form the basis of a new regulation that will incentivize rooftop solar adoption, slated to be issued in early 2024. Experts believe that an improved regulation could signal key sustainable shifts across the country’s vital tourism industry.

The Cambodia Tourism Federation (CTF) and WWF-Cambodia have reaffirmed their endorsement of an improved regulation, noting its specific implications for the tourism industry, in light of Clean Energy Week (Nov 16-Nov 23). The endorsement coincides with the Ministry of Tourism’s recent announcement that almost three times the number of international tourists visited the country in the first 8 months of 2023 compared to 2022 — suggesting that tourism numbers are finally rising to pre-pandemic levels. 


The tourism industry, a key contributor to Cambodia’s economic growth, suffered immensely during the pandemic. With news that the sector is recovering, there is a unique opportunity to transition towards green alternatives throughout the industry and its associated supply chains — ultimately  to promote long-term sustainability and to contribute towards the country’s climate resilience and sustainable development. The forthcoming regulation is expected to ease this transition by creating clear pathways towards adoption of solar energy across tourism facilities, which will reduce electricity costs, stabilize power supply and lower carbon emissions,” said Pheng Vanna, solar project manager at WWF Cambodia. 


Experts at CTF and WWF-Cambodia believe an improved regulation that will incentivize residents and key economic sectors to install rooftop solar systems by leveling the playing field through a technology-neutral tariff structure will be a key move, replacing the current limiting regulation. 


Solar systems, whether utility scale or small to medium scale rooftop systems, contribute to cheaper electricity rates and provide much needed power during hot summer months when hydropower production is at its lowest and solar at its highest. It also produces maximum power at daytime when demand is highest. Adoption of rooftop solar systems can further boost this clean energy supply through an improved regulation that provides certainty, clarity and a level playing field for investors in the technology.


Experts at CTF and WWF-Cambodia also highlight that the current regulation has limited the development of rooftop solar while focusing only on utility scale solar. Utility scale solar are large scale solar farms connected to the main power grid, while rooftop solar systems are mostly installed by consumers such as garment factories, other establishments and residential houses. It is estimated by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) that more than 3,000 MW, equal to 29.8% of potential sources of total domestic electricity supply, can be absorbed by the national power grid system in 2040. With more than 400 MW of utility-scale solar capacity currently installed, there is definitely space for both utility-scale and rooftop systems for Cambodia to fully reap the benefits of solar power.   


In their endorsement, CTF and WWF-Cambodia also pointed to the rise of ecotourism as another indication that the tourism sector should fully harness the regulation. In 2019, ecotourism shared 16 percent of the total tourist visit in Cambodia. The industry is also seeing a growing demand for sustainability in travel worldwide, with recent industry studies suggesting that 78% of tourists globally seek eco-friendly accommodation, including clean energy options. Not to mention, the demand for electricity has grown rapidly in the country, averaging 20% per year — further emphasizing the need to seek cheaper, more reliable and more sustainable sources of electricity generation. 


Sustainable energy consumption through rooftop solar systems will increase income for community-based ecotourism sites across the country, creating ripple effects in local sustainable development and biodiversity conservation. 


“The forthcoming regulation is a clear sign of Cambodia’s commitments towards carbon neutrality and serves as inspiration for the region to develop their own incentivizing mechanisms for clean energy. But the onus to move the regulation beyond paper rests on individuals across sectors. The tourism industry has the potential to promote leadership in this transition and every facility that participates — whether a mega resort or a small-scale community-led ecotourism homestay — will make a tangible difference in this effort,” said Mr. Somethearith Din, CTF President. 


CTF and WWF-Cambodia are partners in the Swiss-funded Building Back a Climate Friendly and Inclusive Tourism Sector in Cambodia, a three-year project with the goal to facilitate the sustainable energy transition of the Cambodian tourism sector through the adoption of solar and efficient cooling solutions in hotels, eco-resorts, and community-based ecotourism sites. From training courses in solar energy to supporting ecotourism sites in installing rooftop solar systems, the project hopes to inspire sustainable change across the sector. 


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Ms. Sophearoth Ravy, Senior Communications Officer, 


Notes to Editors:

  1. Photos for third-party use are available here
  2. Principles for Permitting the Use of Rooftop Solar Power in Cambodia was presented by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) in April 2023. It will form the basis of the forthcoming regulation, slated to be issued in early 2024. 
  3. The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) desires to lift the country out of poverty and become a higher-middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050, as stated in the Pentagon Strategy - Phase I for the current Seventh Legislature of the National Assembly. The RGC aims to enhance connectivity and efficiency in energy as mentioned in the 2nd Pillar for ‘Economic Diversification and Competitiveness Enhancement’ and sustainable management of natural resources, cultural heritages and tourism in the 4th Pillar for ‘Resilient, Sustainable and Development’.
Solar on a hotel's Rooftop in Cambodia
© Gnor Prahhna / WWF-Cambodia
Rooftop solar on the Community-based Ecotourism Center in Cambodia
© Vanna Pheng / WWF-Cambodia
Clean Energy 2023
© Sreyrat Von / WWF-Cambodia