Providing affordable solar panels to Cambodia – Thida’s Story
How it all began
When Thida Kheav learned that solar power was a sustainable and affordable alternative to power generators, she made it her mission to bring solar energy to people in Cambodia.
Unfortunately, her early efforts weren’t successful. Despite explaining the benefits of solar energy, particularly that it was a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to power generators, she was met with skepticism and resistance.
Acknowledging these limitations, Thida realized there was a knowledge gap in the rural areas around solar power. Given that 80% of the population lived in rural areas, she saw an opportunity to make a difference. So, she started her own organization called “Renewable Energy Development Association.”
Providing renewable energy to rural communities
The “Renewable Energy Development Association” worked to assist rural communities in accessing renewable energy sources. Using an interest-free credit system, household could enjoy the benefits of solar panel energy without having to pay the upfront costs in one go.
While the Association was making progress, problems remained. Thida realized that some of the equipment she was importing was of poor quality and durability. This meant the solar panels had shorter lifespans than expected, resulting in higher costs in the long-term.
Thida knew that if she was really going to make this work, and give real access to sustainable, green energy, she would need to take matter into her own hands and kickstarted a new business – Solar Green Energy Cambodia - with her husband in 2013. With only a basic technical knowledge of how solar panels work, Thida took on the management role. Her husband, a mechanic and technician, would handle the technical aspects of the business, such as managing the solar panel installation.
Their business has core 5 services and values:
Control imports and distribution of equipment to ensure quality control
Solar panel 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
Of all the work she has done in the renewable energy space, she is particularly passionate about the impact it has on farming and agriculture. “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, so why don’t we do it ourselves? I want to push Cambodians to be self-sustaining.”
Women in STEM
Thida notes that support for women in STEM is still in its infancy in Cambodia. She’s very happy to be a part of the process and hopes more women will follow STEM careers. She says:
“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.