In Cambodia, the agricultural sector contributes around a third of national GDP and about half of formal employment. This creates enormous potential for deployment of renewable energy (RE), especially as farmers face high electricity costs and relatively high and fluctuating diesel fuel prices, solar irradiation in Cambodia is high and the costs of solar technologies are declining.
Investing in renewable energy technologies such as solar-powered water pumps and PV systems can increase the competitiveness of Cambodian farmers and agrifood SMEs, expand their access to electricity and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, upfront costs for these technologies are high, and most Cambodians lack access to appropriate finance. Although Cambodia enjoys one of the world’s highest access to finance ratios, this is largely provided at local level through community-based lending and micro credit. By contrast, large financial institutions are risk averse and conservative in their lending practices. For the majority of agricultural enterprises, therefore, challenges remain in accessing finance, especially affordable finance, for investment in RE technologies.
Nexus has established the Clean Energy Revolving Fund (CERF) which helps Cambodian farmers in different segments of the agrifood sector invest in small-scale RE solutions by offering affordable, unsecured finance in amounts suitable for SME-level operators (USD 10,000 to 100,000). The loans are issued following an intensive due diligence process which Cambodian banks would be unwilling to undertake for small-size loans. The Fund’s impact therefore lies in financing agricultural enterprises to become more energy efficient and/or harness RE without requiring collateral, through a relationship banking model. The Fund’s demonstration effect creates the potential to crowd in other financiers with appropriate products and structures. It may also provide the basis for replication of the CERF model, modified as necessary, in neighbouring countries.
The CERF reduces GHG emissions from the Cambodian agrifood sector by displacing fossil fuel-powered technologies and encouraging a shift towards renewables as the sector grows.
In 2019, the Fund is fully operational and supports a healthy pipeline of renewable energy investments. It is beginning to generate substantial learnings about the target market and approaches to innovative finance for renewable energy deployment at small scale.
An overview of CERF and its impacts can be found in this brochure.
A CERF Handbook summarising lessons learned from the design and management of the facility can be downloaded here.