The Cambodian government has launched a four-year project to promote the use of biomass technology in its industrial sector.

The $5.6m project unveiled by the country’s Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy is backed by the United Nations and will provide technical and financial support for biomass schemes in the manufacturing of clothes, bricks, rubber, rice milling and food processing.

Project co-ordinator Chea Chan Thou said the scheme would “provide sustained transfer of efficient, cost effective and environmentally friendly biomass-fuelled energy technologies” to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Cambodia’s Energy Minister Suy Sem said that while the country’s industrial demand for more power generation was growing rapidly, it had to be balanced with environmental protection.

“The project is a great help for industries in saving production costs, improving product quality and productivity, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emission by transferring new appropriate biomass-based technologies for power generation,” he added.

The scheme is technically and financially supported by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and Global Environment Fund.

Cambodia generates almost all of its energy from imported oil and diesel and only 35 per cent of its population have access to reliable electricity.

The government has promised to bring electricity to 70 per cent of its people by 2030 via new coal and hydropower plants.

Earlier this month, senior figures in the country’s manufacturing sector complained that high energy costs are deterring investment in industry.

Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association, said high electricity costs are behind a lack of raw material production.

He told the Phnom Penh Post: “Fabric production is a highly capital-intensive industry, it is not labour intensive. It is highly dependant on energy, so when your cost of electricity or energy is the cost that it is today, it is not economically viable for investors to come to Cambodia.

“When the price of electricity drops to a price that is more acceptable, you will see many investors come in quickly – they have been waiting for 10 years.”