Comin Khmere, the Cambodian arm of international solutions provider Comin Asia, has enjoyed booming business in the Kingdom by installing large-scale solar projects for clients across the country. Southeast Asia Globe spoke to Comin Asia’s regional operations director Michael Freeman to discuss the business end of the company’s renewable energy projects.
Comin Khmere’s Renewable Energy Division was established in 2008. How has it grown since then?
Comin Khmere has always been interested in solar and renewable energy. In 2008, when the renewable energy division was first established, solar power was still expensive and only smaller off-grid systems were financially attractive.
One of the first larger systems we installed was in 2013, at the Bollore Logistics office in Siem Reap, and it was intended to help power the first electric cars. In 2016, we signed our first solar contract with Cleantech to install a large 2.6MW rooftop solar project at the Coca-Cola plant, which opened the same year within the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone.
We have since worked together with Cleantech to focus on rooftop solar for industrial clients through a leasing model. The leasing business is becoming increasingly attractive, as the prices of solar panels have come down significantly, from over a $1 per watt peak to just about $0.40 now. In partnership with Cleantech, we consider ourselves the leading contractor in this market.
As Cambodia passes clear and precise legislation regarding clean energy, we now have a strong pipeline of future projects lined up. We expect our Renewable Energy Division to remain a profitable part of our business and a key area for growth.
Can you discuss regional interest in your renewable solutions? What type of client do you typically attract?
In the region, Comin Asia is exploring solar opportunities in Myanmar and Laos. The current prices of electricity there are low, which makes it currently less attractive to invest in solar in those countries compared to solar projects in Cambodia. We expect that it will not take long for our solar projects to begin to take off in these countries.
Our cooperation with Cleantech is mainly for larger commercial rooftop solar systems. Many of our clients invest themselves in smaller-scale solar systems across Cambodia and the region. Cambodia is currently our main market, but Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam could potentially become major markets for us in the next few years.
How does Comin Khmere encourage clients to purchase renewable solutions?
First of all, we suggest to our clients that they install energy-efficient appliances. We also do audits and advise clients on how they can reduce electricity consumption, and explain to them about how much they can save on energy costs by using replacement appliances.
Secondly, we propose solar systems or other appropriate renewable energy technologies depending on the type of client we are talking to.
Thus far, we have completed several large rooftop solar projects in Cambodia. In addition to the 2.6MW system installed at the Coca-Cola plant, we have installed systems at the International School of Phnom Penh and at the US Embassy, to name just a few of our major projects. We are also currently building a 9.8MW solar system at Chip Mong Insee Cement’s factory in Kampot.
We have collected enough data from our completed projects to demonstrate to our clients that solar systems have the potential to be highly financially attractive.