Interview with Mr. Dean Rizzetti, Energy Policy Director, EnergyLab Cambodia
- 08 December, 2023
- Posted by: EuroCham Cambodia
This week we interviewed Mr. Dean Rizzetti, Energy Policy Director at Energy Lab Cambodia. Energylab Cambodia is an innovative and efficient, non-profit organisation, working to support the growth of Clean Energy in the country. Mr. Dean is an experienced program manager and policy expert working in the fields of climate change, energy, and land use. Read this interview to find out more about how EnergyLab is supporting Cambodia’s transition toward clean energy.
EuroCham: Could you briefly describe your background to us?—I know you worked in Australia, Vietnam, Australia, Rwanda, and Kenya before relocating to Cambodia as the Energy Policy Director.
Dean: I have worked on climate change and energy issues for over a decade in several different countries, including Vietnam, Kenya, Australia, and Rwanda. This has given me an excellent sense of the many cross-cutting challenges that we need to confront to address climate change - how do we create a fair energy system, shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources while maintaining reliability, how do we implement fair and progressive carbon reduction and how do we maximize livelihood outcomes while achieving sustainable outcomes. However, the solutions to the problem of climate change must be locally focused and that’s such an important focus.
Developing and supporting these local solutions is what drew me to Cambodia and specifically to EnergyLab. Cambodia is at an incredibly exciting point in the energy transition and is making decisions that will shape its energy future for decades to come. And there’s such a huge opportunity for renewable energy in Cambodia, with a strong renewable energy resource, requests from industry for more clean energy and a vibrant, young population that wants to learn and grow. You have every ingredient needed for a successful energy transition. At EnergyLab, we do everything we can to help Cambodia embrace this opportunity and maximise the benefits to the country.
EuroCham: What measures is the energy lab taking to promote the development and deployment of clean energy technologies in Cambodia?
Dean: EnergyLab works right across the energy system. First, we highlight and celebrate the potential of clean energy. It wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t believe we could run the economy on renewable energy. However, through Clean Energy Week and other public events, we have underscored the incredible potential of renewable energy. Through these events, we provide a platform for the Government, local startups, development partners, organizations like EuroCham, and all the other players in the energy system to discuss the steps we need to take to drive the uptake of clean energy.
Second, EnergyLab is helping drive the clean energy transition through policy analysis. For example, we are working on the new Principles for Rooftop Solar by bringing the private sector together, helping them understand the principles and then effectively articulating the best way to translate these principles into regulations.
The third way we support the clean energy transition is by working with the community to ensure a fair transition. For example, our start-up program is helping bring solar technologies directly to farmers to improve agriculture efficiency. We're also giving people a direct experience of clean energy technologies. For example, through our E-Mobility showcase, we’re giving electric vehicle manufacturers a chance to introduce their products to the Cambodian market. And through our Fellowship and Internship program we give people direct experience and knowledge of how clean energy can benefit Cambodia.
EuroCham: Could you give us the current state of the energy sector in Cambodia? what are the most significant challenges?
Dean: Currently, Cambodia's domestic production is made up of hydropower, coal power, and variable renewable sources. Cambodia has made incredible energy progress, but it still relies on imports – with over 30% of its electricity imported from Thailand, Laos, or Vietnam and over 25% of Cambodia’s domestic electricity reliant on imported fossil fuels like coal or oil.
On Monday, the Cambodian government announced that it would be accelerating the shift to renewable energy in the next seven years by bringing online more solar energy, expanding its pumped hydro capacity, and cancelling a large coal power plant. As a result of this announcement, Cambodia will now have 2 gigawatts of solar electricity installed by 2030, which is twice as much as had been planned under the government’s earlier plans and 1 gigawat of pumped hydro storage capacity. This is a big step up, and will make a substantial difference in improving the country’s energy security.
In terms of challenges, Cambodia is working on implementing some big announcements, which is always difficult. For example, Cambodia has one of the best energy efficiency policies in the world, but implementing the policy is a major challenge. It’s also not yet clear if the Government’s approach to rooftop solar will unlock as much rooftop solar potential as possible. This is an issue that EuroCham has been working intensively on, and we are continuing to help develop this policy. These implementation challenges are not unexpected, but we must work through them if we’re to maximise clean energy outcomes for the country.
EuroCham: How can the government and private sector work together to address all those issues so that Cambodia can achieve its clean energy goals?
Dean: The government has set a clear direction for renewable energy, which is absolutely vital to attracting investment from the private sector. But ambition is only the first step, and we need the private sector to come forward with good renewable projects. We also need to set strong criteria for social and environmental protection as we make the shift to clean energy and ensure that new renewable energy projects are implemented by local communities and for the benefit of all Cambodians.
EuroCham: Energy Lab Cambodia recently hosted the 2023 Clean Energy Week on November 16 to 23 which celebrates and advocates for Cambodia’s transition toward clean energy. What was the theme of the clean energy this year?
Dean: The theme of this year’s Clean Energy Week was Energy Security – and we had so many excellent discussions on how to use clean energy to create a robust, reliable energy supply in the country. Clean energy is the perfect way to achieve energy security because you don’t need to import any fuel like coal or gas. Instead, you can take advantage of your home-grown resources such as wind, rain and sun to generate power. And there’s even more opportunity for a country like Cambodia, that can export its incredible resources to its neighbours to help them clean up their energy system.
EuroCham: The event was well-attended by the public and private sectors; therefore, why is Clean Energy the right for Cambodia?
Dean: Clean energy is an incredible opportunity for Cambodia because of its abundant resources, and because it doesn’t carry an enormous carbon legacy of old plants. Many countries around the world face two challenges – they need to build lots of new clean energy and they need to close old, polluting plants. But in Cambodia, we’re still looking at how to meet rising energy demand. This combination of good renewable resources, growing energy demand, and a private sectors that’s keen to make difference really puts Cambodia in a great position.