Coal, often referred to as black gold, has been the main feedstock for thermal power plants for long years. Nowadays, with the development of science and technology, developed countries worldwide have gradually reduced and stopped the use of fossil fuels, but resorted to renewable energy instead. Coal has been used for more positive purposes to prevent the overexploitation and severe consequences for the environment, and especially to avoid the wastefulness of inexhaustible solar and wind power.
Unknown coal reserves
According to Vietnam National Coal and Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin), Vietnam’s coal reserves are huge. Of which, the northern province of Quang Ninh has some 10.5 billion tons, including 3.5 billion tons which has been explored, mainly anthracite coal.
However, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that Vietnam has only 165 million tons of coal. The figure provided by the United Kingdom’s BP Group is 150 million tons.
The exact coal reserves in Vietnam remain unknown as coal mines are deep under the Earth’s surface, while the figures provided by different organizations are vastly different.
Other countries worldwide have managed to preserve coal. The United Kingdom, while under the reign of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, closed all coal mines. Japan, China and other powerful countries have imported coal instead of exploiting it as they know that the overexploitation will destroy the environment and cause other consequences for the society. Moreover, the coal exhaustion is obvious.
Overexploitation may lead to immediate consequences
Climate change is becoming more extreme and recent abnormal floods in China are a typical example. Global warming, droughts, melting ice, rising sea level, salinity intrusion, storms and flood tides everywhere have caused anxiety.
It is high time to act for a better life. Someone has said that the future depends on the choices we make today.
Therefore, renewable energy has been expected to replace fossil fuels, which are becoming exhausted. Electricity generated from heat and wind, with high stability and low production costs, has contributed significantly to the fight against climate change and reduced greenhouse gas emissions as heat and wind are always available.
Building a clean energy sector
According to the national electricity development plan in the 2011-2020 period with a vision to 2030, some 14,450 megawatts of electricity will be generated from solar power projects by 2025 and the figure will increase to 20,050 megawatts by 2030.
At present, Vietnam has 82 solar power projects, with a total capacity of 4,460 megawatts connected to the national grid, accounting for some 8.28% of the country’s electricity output. In addition, 13 other projects, with a combined capacity of 630 megawatts, are being executed and will be put into operation in the coming periods.
The Party and the State’s orientation to develop clean energy is a smart strategy, helping protect the environment and national resources and prevent the wastefulness of renewable energy and fossil fuels. In reality, Vietnam is facing a serious shortage of electricity and has to import energy from China. Therefore, the Government should weigh between investing in mining and supporting investors of clean energy development projects.
The Politburo’s Resolution 55 is considered a lighthouse for the country’s energy sector. However, policies in terms of preferential capital, taxes for investors as well as the prchasing prices of electricity in the resolution should be more specific. Especially, the resolution must be deployed consistently by agencies at all levels and enterprises.
In addition, the second Covid-19 wave is posing huge dangers, threatening human lives and the global economy. Like other sectors, multiple solar power projects are facing slow progress due to the pandemic. International flights have been suspended, so foreign experts cannot come to Vietnam to deal with related problems.
Factories in the world, which have yet to fully recover from the pandemic, have to suspend their operation again. These problems have upended business development strategies of investors, including those of renewable energy projects, resulting in an upsurge of costs.
Large renewable energy projects have been also put on hold as equipment cannot be supplied due to the pandemic and floods in China, which supplies 80% of solar energy equipment to the global market.
Vietnam has a great advantage in geographical position, which is near the equator and the sea. Heat and wind are abundantly available, while science and technology is developing enormously. Therefore, an energy revolution is possible. Investors cannot produce electricity from heat and wind without the Government’s support.
According to Vietnam’s coal-fired thermal power development plan with a vision to 2030, around VND269 trillion, or VND17.9 trillion per year, from the State budget, preferential loans, equitization and bond sales will be needed to exploit coal mines to serve thermal power plants and for export. The Politburo’s Resolution 55 will be useful if capital flows are shifted appropriately from fossil fuel-based power projects to renewable energy projects.