Lighting communities through passion

Installing solar energy systems into rural Cambodian homes has brought hope and economic opportunities for locals, as REBECCA WATTS writes.

Seven out of 10 people in Cambodia live in rural areas with little or no access to grid electricity.

Access to electricity underpins all areas of development. It is hard for communities to thrive without it.

It is in this situation that my ANU engineering and commerce degree can be useful.

Last January, I spent time in a beautiful Secret Beach community in rural Cambodia on the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Design Summit.

The community has no electricity or running water and the local economy depends on fishing and agriculture.

Women peel crabs and earn just US$2.50 per day.

Inspired by my experience and motivated to make a difference, I devoted my honours thesis to creating a solar energy project with EWB in Cambodia.

Three years earlier, like thousands of other engineering students across Australia, I took part in the EWB Challenge during my first undergraduate year.

EWB is a non-government organisation that runs education programs in Australia and works with communities in disadvantaged circumstances.

Due to my Major in Renewable Energy Systems at ANU, I was particularly struck by the opportunity for solar energy technologies in rural Cambodia.

The country has little or no existing electricity infrastructure and also faces the highest electricity costs in the region, particularly in rural areas.

With the cost of solar energy technologies decreasing, there is huge potential for off-grid solar energy solutions to support low-carbon, sustainable development.