Power development strategy break and electricity shortage inevitable

In order to develop power plants, Vietnam needs to have huge capital, while it is seriously lacking capital. Meanwhile, the current low electricity prices cannot attract foreign investors. Therefore, failing to fulfil the development strategy proves to be unavoidable. 

The prime minister has approved the plan on national power development for 2011-2020, which is called the master plan 7. Vietnam strives to have the power generation capacity of 75,000 MW by 2020 and 146,800 MW by 2030. Hydropower plants would generate 23.1 percent of the total capacity, pumped storage hydroelectric plants 2.4 percent, thermo power coal-run plants 48 percent, gas-run thermo power plants 16.5 percent.

Also, Vietnam plans to have 5.6 percent of the total capacity from renewable energy, 1.3 percent from nuke plants and 3.1 percent from imports.

The total investment capital of the power industry would be 48.8 billion dollars by 2020 and 123.8 billion dollars for 2030.

Tran Viet Ngai, Chair of the Vietnam Energy Association, in the interview given to VietNamNet, said that it is very difficult to reach the targets set by the master plan 7.

What would you say about the goals set out in the master plan 7?

The plan has set up the goal of obtaining 75,000 MW capacity by 2020. However, I think that the capacity would only be able to satisfy the electricity demand, if the economic growth rate is low, at six percent per annum. If the economic growth rate is higher, at 7-8 percent per annum and the living standards get improved, the capacity would not be able to meet the demand, while rural areas would face electricity shortage.

The actual total power generation capacity has reached 25,000 MW only, while Vietnam will have to have 50,000 MW more in just 10 years. Do you think that this is a feasible plan?

It is true that the total power capacity of Vietnam in 2011 is 25,000 MW, or 150 billion kWh. Meanwhile, we need to raise the total capacity to 75,000 MW, or triple the current figure. This means that we need to have 5000 MW more every year, which seems to be unreachable goal.

In the past, we had master plan 6 (the power generation development strategy for 2001-2010), and we never obtained the goal of having 3780 MW more every year. This explains why the electricity shortage has been lasting for years. It is clear that 5000 MW more a year is a big challenge.

The master plan 7 shows that the power to be generated by coal-run thermo power plants would account for an increasingly high proportion in the total capacity. Can you see any difficulties in developing coal-run power plants in the time to come?

Under the master plan 7, by 2020, coal-run plants would generate 48 percent of the total capacity, or 256 billion kWh. If so, the plants would need 67.3 million tonnes of coal. Meanwhile, by 2030, the plants would generate 76,000 MW, accounting for 51.6 percent of the total capacity. With the output of 390 billion kWh, Vietnam will need 171 million tonnes of coal.

Seeking coal supply sources remains a headache. Vietnam will have to import coal from 2015, but it still has not found stable supply sources. Russia and India do not export coal, only Australia and Indonesia keep exporting, but the two sources still have not said anything about if they can ensure coal supplies for Vietnam and for how long.

In principle, Vietnam can exploit coal from the Red River Delta’s coal basin in Ha Nam or Thai Binh provinces. In Quang Ninh, we still have one billion tonnes of coal in reserves and we can open 20 new mines which can bring the output of 2.5-3 million tonnes a year.

However, in order to develop the mines, Vietnam needs capital. It would take 300 million dollars to open a new mine in Quang Ninh, which means that Vietnam will need six billion dollars to open 20 mines. If we do not have enough money, we will not have coal, and we will not be able to develop coal-run plants on schedule.


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