Hacking clean energy solutions in Cambodia - The Smart Energy Hackathon


The first Smart Energy Hackathon took place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia recently and saw a great turnout and fierce competition amongst highly motivated teams.

The event was sponsored by the British Embassy in Cambodia, SMART and UNDP Cambodia, and hosted by EnergyLab Asia and Factory Phnom Penh. The Smart Energy Hackathon drew over 40 attendees who formed seven teams for the competition with each team consisting of ICT developers and clean energy professionals.

What is a Hackathon?

Hack (creative problem solving) athon (marathon)

It's a dedicated weekend, void of distractions, allowing teams to “hack solutions”. Incentives to “hack the solutions” included prizes, deadlines, unlimited refreshments and expert mentors to help stay on track. Hackathons are an efficient, low risk, low-cost way to encourage innovation, catalyse start-ups and engage talent in the clean energy sector.

The Smart Energy Hackathon

The hacking began on a Saturday with the goal of launching energy start-ups aimed at creating smart solutions to help advance the growth of the clean energy industry in Cambodia. The teams were given five challenges to solve. SNV Cambodia proposed the “Trust Solar” challenge, which aimed to solve the following issue:

“Solar home systems are an excellent way to meet the energy needs of over a million Cambodian rural households who still depend on torches or rechargeable car batteries for basic lighting and electricity. Cambodians are lucky to have many products and companies offering solar products - but it's difficult for rural Cambodians to get information on where to buy good quality solar products, understand what to buy, and find out what others think of products and solar companies. How do they report products that aren't so great? This is your Challenge!”

Final pitches began on 28 October at 2.30pm and continued into the late afternoon.


My personal favourite pitch - probably a little biased - was the “Trust Energy” team. The concept was to develop a web-based application to help potential buyers of Solar Home Systems to make the best purchase decision for their energy needs, including a demand assessment tool, and listing, rating and geolocalisation of local solar distributors and their products in Cambodia.

While there were a variety of submissions, common themes that came up during the event were quantifying energy savings, qualifying marketing leads, and developing software optimization applications.

Amongst the three finalists for the upcoming second round of the competition on 8 November, “HackaSrey” aims to alleviate traffic congestion in Phnom Penh with an audio navigation system in Khmer. “All Factories Go Solar Cambodia” aims to simplify the process for solar companies to prospect Cambodian factories in order to facilitate their transition to solar energy.  “GoodLuck” team also had an interesting app that helps farmers quantify and keep track of their savings when using efficient charcoal from Sustainable Green Fuel Enterprise (SGFE) in their chicken hatching devices.

Overall, the event embodied the entrepreneurial start-up spirit that we had hoped for and presented innovative ideas and concepts that addressed key renewable energy industry issues. It will be exciting to follow how these teams of technology and clean energy experts continue their work in the future to keep tackling clean energy issues.