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Thermal tech assoc chairman: Coal-fueled power plants inevitable

Van Nam
Monday,  Mar 6,2017,23:14 (GMT+7)
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Thermal tech assoc chairman: Coal-fueled power plants inevitable

Van Nam

Duyen Hai coal-fired power station in the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long. Vietnam has no other choice but to continue building coal-fueled power plants to meet higher energy demand - PHOTO: THANH HOA

HCMC - Vietnam has no other choice but to continue building coal-fueled power plants to meet higher energy demand and back economic growth, said Truong Duy Nghia, chairman of the Vietnam Science and Thermal Technology Association.

Speaking at a seminar on coal-fired power generation technology and the environment in HCMC last Friday, Nghia said hydropower has almost reached its full potential in Vietnam, the cost of gas-fueled electricity generation remains high, and the nation's first nuclear power plants have been shelved. Therefore, the country will have to continue building coal-fueled power stations in the coming years.

Phuong Hoang Kim, deputy head of the General Directorate of Energy under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said power development is crucial to economic growth. If the country wants to achieve gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 7% a year in 2016-2020, commercial electricity supply should grow at least 10% in the period and 16% in 2021-2025. 

Large- and medium-scale hydropower plants with a combined capacity of around 20,000 MW are running at full tilt, and the country can develop new small-scale hydropower facilities after 2020. Meanwhile, coal stocks for power generation total 45-50 million tons, a volume which is sufficient to generate 15,000 MW of power. The electricity sector may have to import 82 million tons of coal this year and 85 million tons in 2020.  

Kim said the country would have to buy gas from foreign suppliers from 2023 to fuel thermal power stations as domestic supply of natural gas would dwindle then. Sources of renewable energy like hydropower, wind and solar will account for 21% of the country’s total power output by 2030. 

Kim said thermal power plants will continue playing a vital role in the coming years. They are projected to account for 49% of total power output in 2020, 55% in 2025 and about 50% in 2030 based on the demand which is predicted to rise to 235 billion kWh in 2020, 352 billion kWh in 2025 and 506 billion kWh in 2030.

More investment in new coal-fueled power stations has caused concern among experts about the country’s energy development strategy. What technology will be used to control emissions at coal-fired power projects is a tough question, according to experts.

Experts were quoted by local media as saying that coal-fueled power facilities pollute the air, water resources and land around their premises. They discharge mercury, arsenic, lead, heavy metals and dust into the environment, causing acid rains harmful to agricultural and fish farming.

Experts warned coal-fired power stations would have lasting impact on the environment and the marine ecosystem.

However, Nghia told the seminar that a number of organizations and scientists, including those who are not experts in coal-fired power generation, have not provided sufficient evidence on its potential effects, prompting a misunderstanding among the public.

Nghia said it was reported that a survey of Harvard University had found every year around 4,300 people in Vietnam died of diseases caused by pollutants from coal-fueled power plants. The local media did not make clear where it took the survey as there has not been a survey on deaths caused by coal-fired power generation in Vietnam.

He wondered why the university had not warned the United States, Australia, Germany and China where there are large-scale coal-fueled power plants. 

A number of newspapers quoted experts as saying that the Mekong Delta region would need to invest in 14 coal-fired power plants and their emissions would total 70 million cubic meters of water at 40 degrees Celsius, affecting the environment. If this had been the case, coal-fueled power plants in Vietnam and elsewhere in the world should have already been shut down, he stressed.

Nguyen Duy Binh, head of the production technical department at Vietnam Electricity Group (EVN), said coal is a source of energy which could be used for about 300 years and it would continue to be a main energy supply in Vietnam. It is important to reduce dust emissions at coal-fueled power stations so as to control air pollution.

Binh said EVN has installed systems to deodorize sulfur in emissions at eight of its 11 coal-fueled power stations and tools to filter electrostatic dust at all the facilities. Their water is cooled before it is discharged into the environment, and the group is looking for firms to buy its well-stored ash to make tiles, cement and prefabricated building materials.

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