Energy Strategies for the Mekong Basin

Oxfam’s partner, River Coalition in Cambodia (RCC), in collaboration with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and The Stimson Center, gathered 51 people yesterday to host a half-day workshop on the Mekong Basin Connect Strategy.

The Mekong Basin Connect is an energy strategy that aims to reduce the environmental and social impacts energy sources such as hydropower have on the Mekong region.

The workshop aimed to introduce Mekong Basin Connect’s strategic, system scale water-energy planning approaches and discuss pathways for reducing risk in Cambodia and in the Mekong basin as a whole. The key messages of the workshop were upholding common understanding of keeping the Mekong free flow with the ideas of replacing mainstream dams with other renewable energies, tributary dams and grids, concentrating cascade upstream to promote fish connectivity, avoiding dams at the mouths of tributaries and preserving tributary systems with high/rich sediment contribution.

The workshop gave participants the chance to talk with key energy and water governance experts about the opportunities and challenges surrounding strategic-water energy planning in Cambodia and provide an overview of the Mekong Basin Connect approaches.

According to Tek Vannara, Executive Director of NGO Forum on Cambodia, 70% of Cambodia’s population in 2020 and 100% of the population in 2030 will have access to electricity. He noted that 40% of the electricity will come from hydropower, 36% from coal and 24% from other sources including purchasing from neighboring countries and fuel energy.

Based on the data I feel that the government depend too much on hydropower dams as the main source of power while other alternative energy sources are not being considered.

I was impressed by the presentation Brian Eyler, Director of the Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia Program gave about why the basin-wide system approach is crucial for Cambodia.

Brian highlighted that Cambodia has higher electricity prices than other countries in the region and the country was in the early stage of energy development. He also spoke of the importance of shifting interest to diversifying Cambodia’s renewable energy portfolio and that existing institutions, such as the National Council for Sustainable Development could help mitigate downstream impacts.