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Slow-moving projects lead to power shortage
The Saigon Times Daily
Wednesday,  Jun 13, 2018,12:30 (GMT+7)

Slow-moving projects lead to power shortage

The Saigon Times Daily

Once a power exporter, Vietnam has become an importer since 2015 - PHOTO: TL

HCMC - Vietnam is facing a risk of power shortage as the roll-out of power projects is proceeding too slowly, according to a Sai Gon Giai Phong news report.

Supply-demand imbalance

Under the National Power Development Plan for the 2011-2020 period, with a vision toward 2030, often referred to as Power Development Plan VII, the total capacity of the national power network should be 60,000MW in 2020, 96,000MW in 2025 and 130,000MW in 2030. However, the growth of power generation has failed to ensure that the plan is being followed, with the total capacity reaching only 45,000MW so far.

Power sources in the northern region can supply 95 billion kWh, and consumption is at 75 billion kWh. Supply and consumption in the central region are 32 billion kWh and 17 billion kWh, respectively. Meanwhile, the southern region can generate 70 billion kWh of power but consumes up to 85 billion kWh, or nearly half of the country’s power demands. This is also why the 500kV north-south transmission line has had to transmit large amounts of power to the south in previous years.

Power transmitted from the northern and central regions to the south was over 21.6 billion kWh last year, equivalent to 23% of the south’s power needs and up 46% against 2016. A high transmission capacity of 4,600MW has been recorded.

The local newspaper quoted a representative of Vietnam Electricity Group (EVN) as saying that it would not be safe if the transmission surges on the lines are increased.

Nguyen Phuoc Duc, deputy general director of EVN’s Southern Power Corporation, noted that power plants in the south could not meet demand. The power shortage is projected at 1.2-1.6 billion kWh per year in the 2021-2022 period but could be even higher if coal-fired thermal power plants, such as Long Phu 1, Song Hau 1 and BOT Duyen Hai 2, as well as the block B gas project are not completed as planned.

Under the existing plan, the total capacity of new power sources in the 2018-2022 period amounts to 34,964MW, with thermal power making up 26,000MW. Nonetheless, work has begun on only seven thermal power plants that will produce a combined 7,860MW. This will leave a major impact on the power supply in the coming years. In addition, with every thermal power plant in the south falling behind schedule, the power shortage will rise to 7.2-7.5 billion kWh per year, according to Duc.

Increased imports planned

Once a power exporter, Vietnam has become an importer since 2015 when it had 3% of its energy demand served by imports. This ratio is forecast to climb to 24% in 2030.

If the roll-out of power projects, particularly for renewable energy, is not accelerated, the import ratio could amount to 44% instead of the current forecast of 24%, Nguyen Van Vy from the Vietnam Energy Association warned.

Besides speeding up power generation projects to cover the current shortage, imports can be increased. In addition to traditional markets, Laos is regarded as a potential power exporter.

Under the power development strategy until 2025, with a vision toward 2035, prepared by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, EVN may import power from this neighboring country to supplement supply in the coming years. Many policies supporting enterprises in the research and construction of transmission lines to import power have been issued.

EVN and investors in Laos have also signed memorandums of understanding on power purchases.

However, experts have expressed concern that the buying of power from Laos will lead to environmental implications, as well as high costs. The cost of transmitting power from Laos to Vietnam is estimated at US$10,000-15,000 per kilometer (using the reference price of power transmission from Laos to Thailand).

Investments would be higher in the mountainous areas of the Truong Son range, and trees would need to be chopped down for construction and the transport of equipment. Craggy terrain, long distances and difficulties with management and maintenance all lead to high power losses. Favoring power sources from Laos will contribute to encouraging this country to build more hydropower dams in the Mekong River, according to the representative of the Vietnam Energy Association.

Therefore, in the view of experts, the most feasible solutions are to promote power saving and execute solar energy projects. Exploiting clean energy sources is a more sustainable and safer choice than increasing power imports.

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