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Solar power rises, but lags demand

14:21 | 30/08/2019

VCN - Although it has grown in recent years, solar power meets only a modest amount of total electricity demand. With electricity demand rising by over 10% a year, Vietnam still has to mainly rely on coal and gas for its power.

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The mechanism of good prices is the factor that triggered investment in solar power. Photo: Duc Phong.

Shortage

As a unit assigned by the Government to provide electricity, Vietnam Electricity Corporation (EVN) is the most worried about ensuring sufficient power. At a meeting on the morning of August 24 in Hanoi, Mr. Vo Quang Lam, Deputy General Director of EVN, said that the total installed capacity through the whole grid is 48,000 MW, but the availability is only 39,000 MW.

"With the growth rate in electricity usage of over 10% per year, it means that 4,000 MW will need to be added next year," said Mr. Lam.

There are many questions about whether renewable energy, especially solar power, has developed enough to compensate for the shortage in electricity. EVN's Deputy General Director said if we take 212 billion kWh of commercial electricity in 2019 divided by 365 days, about 750 million kWh is needed every day.

Meanwhile, the most recent peak day was August 21, when solar power capacity reached 27 million kWh. Thus, the remaining amount of electricity needed to be available "regardless of day and night" must be 720-730 million kWh. Solar power is important, but it is tolerable at the peak of 27 million kWh / 750 million kWh. The remaining amount must be offset by other traditional power sources such as coal, gas and hydroelectricity.

In addition, referring to solar power, Mr. Lam said that releasing capacity is a problem.

According to the power plan, by 2020, the total solar power capacity will reach 850 MW but the current capacity has reached 4,500 MW. Next year, this figure is expected to reach 7,700 MW.

“A renewable energy plant takes 8-10 months, but a 500 KV transmission line takeds 3-5 years. Many places such as Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan focus on many renewable energy projects; despite efforts to build a rapid transmission system, there is also a certain lag,” said Vo Quang Lam.

Thermopower

On the problem of Vietnam's power, Mr. Ha Dang Son, Director of the Center for Green Energy and Energy Research, said that from now until 2021 no new power source is available.

For Vietnam, it is necessary to study in detail and to diversify sources. Hydropower has expired; wind power and solar power are good but the impact on prices is high; coal power also needs to be limited. In the current context, if there is no development of nuclear power, an additional source of electricity needs considering.

According to Mr. Vo Quang Lam, until 2025, the forecast of growth in electricity demand is over 10% a year. In order to meet the demand for electricity, the structure of traditional power sources needs to be taken seriously. Currently, traditional energy such as coal and gas-fired thermoelectricity are available.

However, the Deputy General Director of EVN expressed his concern. In the context of the Vietnam Coal and Mineral Industries Group (TKV) and Northeast Coal Corporation, coal mining is quite difficult, the capacity is not high while the price increased again, leading to imports of coal and gas.

"Gas imports have to be liquefied but cannot be imported naturally and they need to have deep water ports. There are many difficulties, it must rely on large and long-term investments which the owners of new gas fields decide to open the mines because gas fields need to invest 5-7, even 10 years, to have gas. Therefore, it is necessary to calculate the plan early to make gas plants or coal thermal power properly,” said Mr. Lam.

Considering a practical perspective rather than investment capital, Ms. Ngo To Nhien, a member of Vietnam energy transformation, said that to promote the electricity generation market and investment requires to take the price of buying electricity approaching the market through auctions.

Mr. Vo Quang Lam said that in order to create a fully operational market, the goods must be adequate. The electricity market is short of supplies, namely lack of resources.

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"When wind power and solar power have good advantages in price, traditional electricity is not seen. FDI inflows into Vietnam also invest in other sectors rather than investing in the electricity industry. EVN will continue to petition the Government to remove the mechanism for more investors to invest in power sources,” said Mr. Lam.

By Thanh Nguyễn/Bui Diep