Thida’s venture to provide affordable solar panels to all in Cambodia
Sustainable and affordable – that is what solar powered energy is compared to power generators. Upon realizing this, Thida Kheav made it her mission to bring solar energy to those in Cambodia.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t met with much success, despite explaining that solar energy was more affordable and sustainable when compared to power generators. Instead, skepticism and resistant was high among the community Thida tried to convince.
Acknowledging these limitations, and the fact that most companies (such as the one she was working at) did not cater to the rural community which made up 80% of the population in 2004, Thida decided to start her own organization called “Renewable Energy Development Association”.
The “Renewable Energy Development Association” placed a focus on aiding the rural communities in gaining access to renewable energy. Thida did this by creating a credit system where those in rural communities didn’t have to pay for the installation of rural panels at one go, but through monthly interest-free repayments.
While things began to change for the better, Thida soon realized that some of the equipment she was importing into Cambodia were of poor quality and durability. It was not sustainable for the people she was helping, and would result in higher costs in the long-term. Thida wanted to give people quality products with a reasonable price tag and feasible payment methods for those in rural areas (credit and monthly payments) to have access to sustainable, green energy, and decided to re-invent her business. Having only basic technical knowledge on solar energy, Thida took on the management role and teamed up with her husband, a mechanic and technician who would handle the technical aspects of the business. The dynamic duo kickstarted their own solar panel business “Solar Green Energy Cambodia” in 2013.
Their business has core 5 services and values:
Import and distribute ensure quality control
Installation and maintenance
Home manufacturing of specific products
Provide credit or rental for their products
Use their renewable energy to support agriculture efforts in Cambodia
Out of her work in renewable energy she is particularly passionate about the impact it has on the agricultural world, “Solar power is very involved in agriculture, from supporting smart farms, water pumps and smart irrigation systems,” she says.
When asked where her particular interest in the relationship between agriculture and energy comes from, she says: “In Cambodia, we import around 60% of agricultural products from countries like Vietnam and Thailand. Cambodia has so much potential, we have good land and environmental resources to produce our own food here in Cambodia, so why can’t we do it ourselves? I want to push Cambodians to be self-sustaining.”
Thida notes that in Cambodia, it's only in recent years that support for women in STEM careers has been brought about and she is extremely happy to be a part of that, and she hopes for more women to join. She adds, “if you want to do something, do it ladies. Even if you don't have the ability to do it for yourself, you can always team up with other people, your different skills will form a great team to achieve the goals you set out.”
Now, Thida has joined the UN programme ‘Economic Empowerment for Women in Green Industry’, and receives training on gender mainstreaming in green industries, continuing to create opportunities and an empowering environment for the women that she works with.