Think Global Act Local: Exploring the Role of Community Renewable Energy in National Achievement of an Inclusive, Just Energy Transition

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The global COVID-19 pandemic offers Southeast Asian countries the opportunity to reset and rethink development strategies and the potential to “build back better” –more resilient, more sustainable, and decarbonized. Agencies like the OECD and the IEA have championed “build back better” approaches for the energy sector, but the focus of these calls center on technology change and increasing deployment of renewable energy in the national electricity generation mix. For many developing countries in Southeast Asia the challenge of Renewable Energy (RE) deployment is complicated by other factors such as an urgent need to make progress on energy access goals (Sustainable Development Goal– SDG 7), the challenges of reliable generation and avoidance of blackouts, and keeping up with rapid energy demand growth. In this paper, we argue that renewable energy offers more than simply technological benefits to the energy sector; it also offers an opportunity for distributed energy resources (mini-grids, roof top solar) and community ownership and management of energy resources to advance national power development agendas. We draw on case studies from Cambodia and Vietnam to demonstrate that decentralized renewable energy options can provide rural communities with clean and affordable electricity that also offer a range of social, economic, environmental, technological and political benefits. As such, they play a crucial role in achieving national SDG targets towards universal electricity access. We argue that community renewable energy (CORE)offers governments the opportunity to reach reliable universal access faster, more equitably and with greater knock-on benefits to rural livelihoods, including strengthening community ownership of electricity services. Recognizing there are technology and governance issues challenging the sustainability of some CORE projects in the region, this study proposes a framework for investigating different dimensions of a project to identify areas for improvement.

Product details
Date of Publication
22 December 2021
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Southeast Asia
Number of Pages
All rights reserved
Language of publication
Table of contents

Introduction - p. 4

Understanding Community Renewable Energy - p. 6

Data Collection - p. 14

Access to Electricity and Renewable Energy Adoption in Cambodia and Vietnam - p. 15

Case Studies: Community Renewable Energy Projects in Cambodia and Vietnam - p. 20

Discussion - p. 28

Techno-engineering Process - p. 31

Financial Process - p. 30

Governance Process - p. 31

Outcome - p. 33

Sustainability of CORE and its challenges - p. 35

Conclusion - p. 37

References - p. 39