Viet Nam News
Trương Duy Nghĩa, Chairman of the Việt Nam Thermal Science and Technology Association, tells Kinh tế Việt Nam & Thế giới (Việt Nam & World Economy) that coal will continue to be main source of electricity for Viet Nam in the coming years
What is the role of thermal power in the world, in general, and Việt Nam, in particular?
I would say that thermal power remains the key source of power in the world today. According to latest reports, thermal power accounts for about 41.2 per cent of the world’s electricity production, followed by gas (21.9 per cent), hydropower and nuclear power.
Australia ranks first thermal power production with 68.6 per cent, followed by India with 67.9 per cent and South Korea with 43.2 per cent.
In our country too, thermal plants have played a very important role in electricity generation. In 2015, thermal power accounted for about 30 per cent of electricity production in the country. This will increase to 49.3 per cent by 2020, 55 per cent by 2025, and 53 per cent by 2030, according to the national power plan,
One of the key factors behind the high percentage of thermal power is that Việt Nam’s organic coal deposits are sufficient for 300-400 years to come. Then, the price of coal is very cheap. This is the key reason that many countries, particularly South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong, have already switched to thermal power as their hydropower capacity runs out.
Why is thermal power still popular?
Cost-wise, thermal power production is the second cheapest, after hydropower. It costs about 7 US cents per kWh, but its investment capital is much lower than hydro, solar, wind or nuclear power.
It takes just three years to build a thermal power plant and its location is much easier to decide than a hydropower plant.
The biggest disadvantage of thermal power is that it consumes a huge amount of coal to produce electricity, which generates a lot of waste. So the cost of cleaning up the environment is very high.
As far as hydropower is concerned, we know that in Việt Nam and in other countries, its potential has almost been used up, and they are looking for alternative sources of electricity.
As I said earlier, thermal power plants do not take much time to build. Its efficiency rate is also much higher than that of hydropower production - 58 against 43 per cent.
However, thermal power has its own disadvantages – high costs of gas or diesel; operation and maintenance.
Last, but not least, is renewable energy. It is costly and its output remains very small. As a result, retail power prices will remain very high.
This is why thermal power remains a popular choice.
Many people are worried about the high pollution caused by thermal power production. How would you respond to this concern?
The technology used by each thermal power project varies. Recently, public attention has turned to both production technology and waste treatment technology. However, I can assure that as of now, the most advanced production technology is being used in the world, including Việt Nam.
What should Việt Nam do to meet the goals of clean energy production and high productivity?
We all know that some of the byproducts generated by thermal power plants are clinker, coal ash, gas and water. That’s why, under the law, all coal power plants have to build high fences; install special conveyor belts and good storage facilities to prevent the escape of dust.
My understanding is that all thermal power plants in the country have already installed required facilities to ensure that they don’t pollute the neighborhood.
However, in the long run, the government should adopt policies encouraging the utilisation of all the waste generated during the power production process, so that some useful products can come out of coal ash and other waste. — VNS