The president of the Viet Nam Energy Association, Tran Viet Ngai, has spoken to Hai Quan (Customs) newspaper about problems facing energy planning.
What plans have been made for the energy industry over the past few years?
Viet Nam has recently drafted plans and strategies for the development of national electricity, the coal industry, gas and oil and new and renewable energy sources.
These plans have helped provide guidance for energy sectors to follow and are serving as the basis for specific development of energy infrastructures, which will aid the growth of the nation's economy.
However, the stronger the energy industry is, the more complicated the energy system will become. The problem is that over the past years these strategies have shown many problems because we have mostly been developing "counter" planning.
What do you mean by "counter planning"?
If you want to have plants generating electricity from coal, you need to have enough coal. This means you need to find out how much coal you have in your hand to determine how many plants you will be able to build. You need to review the resource before anything else. Similarly, if you want oil plants, you need to review the oil resources you have.
In our case, however, we have built electricity plans before reviewing the resources we had. That is counter planning. It is not logical or systematic planning and so has created problems.
Could you be more specific about these problems?
The problems can be easily found when we look at each plan. For example, the national electricity development plan for 2011-20 with a vision until 2030 set a target of constructing 52 coal-based power plants.
However, we don't have coal for these plants and we cannot even import coal from overseas because the cost is three times higher than the domestic price.
In addition, there has been no specific guidance for the implementation of the targets set in the plan. There was no specification as to who the project owner should be or how to attract investment. The lack of careful calculation and planning has raised questions about the reliability of the plan.
The same problem can be found in the planning for the coal industry. According to the coal industry development plan until 2020 with a vision until 2030, the Government assigned the Viet Nam National Coal - Mineral Industries Holding Corporation (Vinacomin) to exploit 55 million tonnes of coal, construct 28 new mines and extend 61 existing mines between 2011 and 2015.
The problem is that it takes six or seven years to construct a new coal mine and each one costs US$400 million. Therefore, constructing 28 new coal mines in just five years is simply impossible. So even if we somehow manage to realise the electricity plan, we won't have coal to operate the power plants.
In your opinion, what should we do to put energy development back on the right track?
The Government needs to review, amend and revise the energy plans and make sure they are all synchronised. The coal and gas sectors must work to meet quality and quantity targets in good time. The plan for each sector needs 10-15 years, with a vision ahead for 20-30 years so that we will have enough time to prepare and ensure implementation effectiveness.
The Government should have a policy to develop wind energy because it is an area where there is great potential – up to 500,000MW according to the World Bank.
We need to properly manage our primary resources and focus on investing in renewable energy and new energy, including bio-energy. Cassava, maize and sweet potato can generate ethanol, which can be transformed into petrol or used to generate electricity. — VNS