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Social enterprise ACE One Energy ready to expand in Cambodia

Gareth Johnson

Recyclable energy company ACE One Energy is combining big data with carbon offsets to assist Cambodian households reduce the cost of fuel and improve health by preventing indoor air pollution.  

What is the ACE One Energy System?

The African Clean Energy (ACE) One Energy system is a small (34cm by 32 cm) multi-fuel stove designed to burn non-traditional fuel sources, such as sticks, twigs, cow dung, corn cobs, pellets, briquettes, and charcoal. In a Cambodian context, this means briquettes made out of the waste formed when making sugar cane juice.

Operations Manager Dylan Rogers told Cambodia Investment Review: “At the start, we were using wood pellets made from sawdust in Kandal province that could be used for cooking, as well as our clients using charcoal. But we wanted to source something locally here in Siem Reap that could be used, so we came up with the idea of using the waste from sugar cane juice makers”.

This process involves the company collecting the waste from vendors, before converting them into briquettes at their Siem Reap factory. Bricks are then sold to users for between $2 to $4 per 15-kilo bags, making it on par, or at least slightly cheaper than charcoal, with cost-effectiveness and moving away from charcoal being key.

ACE One Energy
ACE One Energy – sugar cane waste briquette

Rogers added: “We will always keep our fuel cheaper than charcoal as part of our aim is to help fight the illegal charcoal trade, which is linked to deforestation. In the future, we will even look at giving the fuel for free if users share their data with us”.

Carbon data and profitability in Cambodia

The ACE cookstoves use 75% less fuel compared to open fire stoves they also help reduce a family’s carbon footprint using a measurable function with Rogers stating: “There is a unique QR code that comes with each stove as well as an app. We then get users of the stove to use a digital application so that we can measure how much carbon reduction we have achieved.”

“Users who do this will in the short term receive their fuel at a subsidized rate, but we hope to one day potentially even make it free. The business model here is to sell Carbon Credits. Therefore it is a win-win for both us and the consumer,” he added.

The company is not yet ready to sell Carbon Credits, however, say they are aiming to do so “imminently” according to Rogers, the group is planning for this to become their primary source of income moving forward.

“While we have not yet been hugely profitable, through the data we collect and our calculations we will be able to become more so through the sale of Carbon Credits,” they said. Although they did further add that as a social enterprise any profits would be reinvested in the company.

Carbon Credits, as well as even Plastic Credits, have become hot topics in developed countries as people seek more corporate responsibility from the companies they use.

Through the program, companies seek to offset their carbon footprint by buying credits from companies such as ACE Cambodia, which have been verified by a 3rd party, such as those registered with The Climate RegistryTo read about plastic credits and the social enterprise TonToTon click here..

Another area in which the company was helping the environment was by reducing the little-known killer that is Household Air Pollution (HAP). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) over 3.8 million people die annually due to HAP, with over 11,000 deaths in Cambodia alone, 1,500 of whom are children.

According to Rogers “HAP disproportionally affects rural families, as well as women and children. The ACE One Energy System reduces smoke caused by cooking by up to 95 percent meaning reduction in not only needless deaths but the economic impacts these deaths have on families”.  You can read about Household Air Pollution in rural Cambodia here.

Social enterprise investing in Cambodia

Country Director Daniel Walker of African Clean Energy (ACE) was formed in Lesotho in 2011 by his father, before opening ACE Cambodia in 2016. Since then the company has since expanded to Mozambique, Uganda and Kenya.

In Cambodia, the company currently employs over 60 people, many of which work in their factory in Siem Reap, which set up in 2020, inclusive of an industrial fiber laser cutter.

This according to Walker has meant almost everything could be made in country: “Before buying the laser we had to import a lot of components, which meant minimum orders and high cost. Now almost the entire stove is made in Cambodia by Cambodians and where possible using Cambodian materials”

ACE Cambodia claims to also offer some of the best conditions for factory workers within the Kingdom with Walker adding: “We pay above the minimum wage, staff work five rather than six days a week and we provide free meals, of course, cooked on one of our stoves,” they said.

It is actions like these that have led ACE to be certified as a B Corporation (B Corp) for meeting the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance.

B Corp Certification is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials.

While currently only active in six Cambodian provinces, mostly based around the Tonle Sap, the long-term goal was to gradually move to the whole country.

Operations Manager Dylan Rogers stated: “We can technically deliver to every province and have a dedicated e-commerce team, but we want our expansion to be gradual as at first glance it might just appear to be an expensive stove. Therefore going out into communities and educating them on both the economic and health benefits is key to this being successful”.

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