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Viet Nam has plentiful resources for developing renewable energy

Update: March, 17/2014 - 09:38

Viet Nam should focus on renewable energy, director of the Energy Institute's Renewable Energy and Clean Development Mechanisms Centre Nguyen Duc Cuong told Tuoi tre Cuoi tuan (Youth Weekly).

How do you evaluate Viet Nam's potential in the development of renewal energy, particularly that made from bio-mass?

According to Viet Nam's energy development plan, by 2020 the country will produce 75,000 MW, of which 500 MW will be generated by renewable energy. In 2013, the country's total energy output was 28,000 MW. Renewal energy accounted for about 3.7 per cent.

Viet Nam has large resources of bio-mass. It is estimated that about 118 million tonnes is generated annually. To be more specific, we have about 40 million tonnes from rice straw, 8 million tonnes of rice husks, 8 million tonnes of sugar-cane straw and others. With such huge and stable bio-mass resources, we can build many power plants with big capacity.

It is forecast that by 2015, Viet Nam will have to import coal to operate power plants. That's why the use of bio-mass has become urgent. The power that it produces is clean and at the same time it creates many new jobs and increases farmers' incomes.

In the last few years, 40 bio-mass power plants based on sugar cane have been granted licences to produce a total of 150 MW. However, only five of them have had their electricity connected to the national grid. In addition, two bio-mass power projects using rice husk have been granted licences - one in Tra Noc, Can Tho Province, and the other in Long An Province.

It is reported that 10 other rice husk bio-mass power plants are about to hold feasibility studies.

Why are there so few bio-mass power plants in our country? And some of them have already stopped operation. Why?

I think the hardest problem is the price mechanism. Investment in renewal energy sources such as the wind, sea waves and bio-mass is costly, much higher than for hydro power or thermal power. For wind energy, the Government has adopted a subsidised price policy. It has told Electricity Viet Nam (EVN) to buy at a price of 7.8 cents per kWh. Bio-mass sells for only 4 cents per kWh.

This is the key reason why quite a few projects, including the Lam Son Sugar Mill and the Long An rice husk power plants have decided to stop producing electricity. Instead, they now sell steam for industrial use.

To promote bio-mass power production, your ministry recently submitted a proposal asking the Government to introduce subsidies. Will you elaborate?

In the document we ask the Government to raise the price of buying electricity produced from rice husks at 7.3 cents/kWh and the price of electricity produced from sugar cane a little lower. If our proposal is accepted by the government, I think it will serve as catalyst for the development of renewal energy from bio-mass resources. — VNS

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