At the moment, conference participants complained, such incentives are sorely lacking.
“Cambodian investors have low investment capital,” said Rin Seyha, the managing director of SME Renewable Energy, a Cambodian-based renewable energy investment firm. Unlike neighboring Vietnam, there is very little in the way of tax incentives and subsidies on loans for renewable energy companies, he said.
Jeroen Verschelling, the director of Kamworks, a Cambodian-based solar energy company, said consumers who wish to use more environmentally friendly energy sources are often forced to ask for assistance from microfinance institutions that tend to provide loans with extremely high interest rates.
Mr Verschelling complained that large scale coal plant and hydropower projects are able to easily secure financing. For smaller, renewable projects, “it is much harder to do that,” he said.
According to the environmental group Geres, 80 percent of Cambodia’s energy consumption comes from biomass, mostly from burning timber. The United Nations Development Program estimates that just 20 percent of the population has access to the national power grid.
Small, renewable energy developers say this means most energy-sector financing is directed at projects that benefit only a fifth of Cambodia’s residents.
Meanwhile, Margaret Ryan, an energy consultant for Khmer Solar, which specializes in solar power installation, said that despite government efforts to slash import tariffs on equipment used for renewable energy sources — tariff rates on imports have been reduced form 35 percent to seven percent on items such as solar panels and battery chargers and have been altogether eliminated for items such as wind and hydraulic turbines — the Cambodian consumer is generally unable to afford the costs of installing solar panels.
“Even if labor is very inexpensive, it is still costly,” she said. “Any expense is too much expense.”
In order to reduce prices, Khmer solar is encouraging Cambodians to install the equipment themselves by disseminating simple installation leaflets and employing operators who can troubleshoot for clients with technical issues.