Cambodia is a key player in the global market for exported rice and the rice-producing sector has been a pillar of national development plans to foster food security and accelerate economic development. The uptake of clean technologies needed to achieve the desired outcomes, however, has been hampered by a lack of finance and awareness of the benefits among producers.
Nexus offers access to small and medium sized enterprise (SME) finance to rice mill owners through a revolving fund to switch from diesel electricity generation to rice husk gasification. It closes the gap of financial constraints due to which rice mill owners are not able to develop their business and increase their income.
In Cambodia, the agricultural sector contributes to around a third of national GDP and about half of formal employment. The staple crop is rice, of which some 9.3 million tons were harvested and processed in 2014 alone, accounting for more than 3% of the world’s exports after feeding the population of around 15 million people.
The rural areas home to the rice producing sector and 85% of the population also suffer from energy poverty, with most of the rural population not having access to electricity. With Cambodia’s energy production capacity still recovering from war, there is great potential in utilising distributed off-grid electrification models to bring affordable electricity to rural households.
The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has made it a priority to bring modern energy access to rural areas (at least 70% electrification by 2030), and a major potential lies in a primary waste component of the rice producing sector: the rice husk.
Rice husks are the indigestible coatings of rice grains, produced and discarded by Cambodian rice millers at the rate of more than 1 million tons per year. They are also potential sources of energy through bio-gasification processes.
At current conversion rates, Cambodia’s rice milling waste could generate between 60–100MW of electricity per year. REEEP estimates that compared to diesel alternatives, a rice husk gasification market could displace some 80,000 tonnes CO2e per year by 2030.
Cambodia’s abundant rice husks are an ideal resource to generate electricity and help overcome the low electrification rate of only 33% (2011). Additionally, installing gasification units enables rice millers to professionalise their operations, reduce production costs, improve working conditions, and dispose of the husks sustainably.