Discussion urges smarter energy choices for sake of human health

Update: March, 02/2020 - 08:37


Wind turbines in the southern province of Bạc Liêu. NGOs are pusing for a reduction of coal and fossil fuel power, the development of renewable energy, and the efficient usage of energy. VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Participants at a recent conference in Hà Nội called for smarter energy choices, given the impacts of coal power generation on air quality and air pollution’s influence on human health.

At the event, held on the occasion of the air quality awareness week, US Chargé d’Affaires to Việt Nam Caryn McClelland said coal power affects not only the environment but also people’s livelihoods and social order around the plants, noting that the surrounding areas of coal-fired power plants are impacted the most.

Statistics from the Green Innovation and Development Centre (GreenID) show that emissions in the life cycle of a 1,200MW coal-fired power plant include about 17 tonnes of lead, 1.66 tonnes of mercury, 117,818 tonnes of NO2, more than 139,600 tonnes of SO2, and nearly 26,200 tonnes of dust. The most dangerous is particulate matter that is less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM2.5), equivalent to only one-thirtieth of a human hair.

GreenID director Nguỵ Thi Khanh said a survey of residents near the Duyên Hải, Vũng Áng and Hải Phòng thermal power plants shows that coal power generation has seriously affected their health.

Giving further details about air pollution’s influence on public health, Nguyễn Thị Trang Nhung, a researcher at the Hà Nội’s University of Public Health, said the research team focused on children’s health and collected data from the National Cancer Hospital and air monitoring stations from 2008 to 2014. 

Results showed that most pollutants caused respiratory diseases in children; the possibility of disease contraction in summer is higher than in winter; the older children are, the greater they are affected by air pollution; and boys are more vulnerable to air pollution than girls.

For people aged 16 and above, the team studied hospitalised cardiovascular cases in Hà Nội and the northern provinces of Quảng Ninh and Phú Thọ, finding that PM1 and PM2.5 are linked with cardiovascular and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and lead to asthma and strokes in people over 64 years old.

However, the studies were limited since they did not assess long-term impacts and the number of air monitoring stations remained low, Nhung noted.

At the discussion, Khanh recommended that relevant ministries and sectors issue policies on air environment protection such as aligning domestic emission standards with international norms, prioritising renewable energy development, and promoting the use of public transport and electric vehicles.

Representatives from other non-governmental organisations urged the reduction of coal and fossil fuel power, the development of renewable energy, and the efficient use of energy.

They also called on Việt Nam to be prudent in its electricity sector development strategy until 2030, or the country could face consequences in terms of the environment and human health. — VNS

In Box: Capacity of coal-fired power plants to drop in 2025

The capacity of coal-fired power plants in Việt Nam will be reduced to 8,760MW in 2025 and 6,340MW in 2030 due to the sluggish implementation of several projects and the disagreement of some localities in coal-fired power plant development.

In 2020, the production of coal-fueled electricity will make up about 33.2 per cent of the total, gas-fueled thermal electricity 14.8 per cent, hydropower 30.1 per cent, and small hydropower and renewable energy 20.3 per cent.

By 2025, these figures will be respectively 37.1 per cent, 13.7 per cent, 18.2 per cent, and 25.5 per cent.

The total output of solar and wind power in 2020 and 2025 will be 12 billion kWh and 36 billion kWh, respectively. — VNS