Another Win for the Last Mile in Cambodia

By Callum Yap
January 26, 2021

The community of Steung Chrov village is transforming the way we think about last-mile electrification through their adoption of novel technology.

“In my village, 77 households have been set up [with power]. This project really benefits people and there are other villages where solar power can be used too”

– Ke Song, Steung Chrov village chief

The village of Steung Chrov is situated on the Tonle Sap river bank which is seasonally flooded during the monsoon season. Further upstream, locals and visiting tourists are connected to the national electricity grid but extending energy infrastructure across the vast channel was not an easy option. Previously, the only way to access intermittent power for the residents of Steung Chrov was through the use of noisy, polluting, and expensive diesel generators, but times have changed.

A full day of sun put to good use

The village now has 24/7 access to productive power – enough to power refrigerators, cooking appliances, and power tools – enabled by Okra’s modular mesh-grid technology which operates independently outside of the national grid. Commissioned in December 2020 in partnership with the Ministry of Mines and Energy , Electricity Authority of Cambodia and UNDP, the  project now provides energy too 140 households. Local solar companies Pteah Baitong and Solar Naturally were engaged for the installation, and a grant from Efficiency for Access facilitated the provision of productive appliances such as rice cookers.

Opportunities unlocked

Access to clean and productive power has profound implications for people living in remote rural areas. For example, the ability to use appliances like refrigerators and electric stoves significantly reduces the time burden on women and children who are often responsible for collecting firewood and cooking. In Steung Chrov, rice cookers, blenders and air pots (kettles) were provided, alongside other productive appliances, which has reduced household fuel costs and made it possible for people to spend more time on other meaningful activities, like education.

“I want to use rice cookers and hot water heaters to improve the hygiene of my cooking. If we have clean cooking we will be healthy.”

– Voeun Sokhem, village resident

“There is a big difference [between using the small solar panel to using Okra] because with the solar home system, my power always cut but not with this system, It [the system] can supply enough power to run a water pump or a refrigerator.”

– Chin Sambath, Steung Chrov villager who sold his generator in December 2020

“I want to create a small business making fruit shakes in front of my house as well as grow some vegetables behind my house to support my daily consumption”

– Sor Sophal, Second village resident to have Okra installed at her household and mother of the local maintenance agent

Power in cables, and in the hands of the people

Now that the system is fully operational, it is critical that it can endure sustainably. Even though the technology used employs automation to reduce ongoing maintenance requirements, the locals are nonetheless empowered to manage small tasks to ensure optimum performance and reliability.

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After completing his electrical engineering degree at the Queensland University of Technology, Callum Yap dived into the startup world with a burning passion to solve big problems. At Okra, his focus has been on optimizing internal company systems and processes. He currently leads manufacturing and marketing operations.

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