PDP VIII (Part 3): Technology changes the game

Thermal power, hydropower or renewable energy all have certain pros and cons. However, the cons of renewable energy can be totally covered by technology.

Mr. Nguyen Van Vy, Vice Chairman of Vietnam Energy Association said that the investment of renewable energy (RE) is facing a lot of obstacles. First of all, power purchase is still monopolized since there is no competitive power retail market. Along with it, Law on Electricity stipulates a state monopoly on electricity transmission, which limits the privatization of investment in this field. Moreover, the electricity tariff decisions have a limited term and short-time applicationof only about 2 years, which makes it difficult for investors to estimate the investment efficiency when preparing for projects.

Mr. Vy also stated that RE is able to replace fossil fuels and atomic energy. Compared to other source of energy, RE has more advantages since it can help to avoid negative impact on the environment. In addition, since the supply source for RE can be considered infinite, there will not be exhaustion after a long time of exploitation. Exhaustion has been a serious issue of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. “Such potential that’s brought by RE, including wind power and solar power, these should be promoted to develop more and more,” said Mr. Vy

According to Ms. Nguy Thi Khanh, Director of Green ID cum Chairman of Vietnam Sustainable Energy Association (VSEA), we need to justify that since the power grid cannot meet the RE supply, there has been curtailment, which makes the power output less than the power input. Moreover, the current curtailment is stemmed from the miscalculation in the power source and grid planning from the previous period while the job creation from RE development hasn’t been assessed properly in the PDP VIII.

Wind power is superior coal power

On the report of recent research, renewable energy development will create twice as many jobs on the same capacity compared to coal power. Creating jobs for people during the recovery process after the Covid-19 pandemic is an urgent issue. If we continue to promote the development of RE, especially distributed solutions, we can make more jobs in localities and limiting migration, Ms. Khanh said.

The National Assembly deputy, Mr. Nguyen Quang Huan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Halcom Vietnam JSC. said that we still say that we prioritize the development of RE, but in fact, we are prioritizing coal power. Prioritizing coal power has short-term advantages, so it will not guarantee sustainable development. On the contrary, the disadvantage of RE at present can be mitigated by technology such as the solution to increase the capacity of technology investment and sell electricity directly.

From the above fact, Mr. Huan said that the state needs to implement synchronous solutions to develop RE. According to Mr. Huan, firstly, it is necessary to upgrade the power grid since the current one is overloaded easily. The investment cost for this upgrade is 13 billion dong. As for the problem of bringing in the private sector, it violates Article IV of the Law on Electricity, which states “the state has a monopoly on electricity distribution.” The Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) also said that it would be against the law to let the private sector participate in the operation. Thus, regarding the problem of Resolution 55, which cannot get a proper amendment after 2 years of promulgation, it’s clear that the Law has many delays and shortcomings. “Now in the 4.0 era, it is necessary to put the smart grid into operation, but we are also slow,” said Mr. Huan.

Secondly, if the hours of sunlight is only 5-7 hours per day, we can think of saving energy technology without pollution. Currently, in the world there is a type of solar technology that is not photovoltaic like what we use. If we use the sun to collect heat to generate electricity, electricity can be generated on the grid 24/24 and make renewable energy stable as the stability of coal and gas power. That is the method of using technology to compensate for the disadvantage of renewable energy.

Third, small and medium hydropower also should be reviewed whether they are renewable energy. That might be literally true, but hydroelectric power is questionable in the term of green and clean. In particular, small and medium hydropower causes many environmental consequences, not only ecological problems but also floods and natural disasters. Storing water in dry season then releasing floods in the rainy season is very dangerous. Thus, small hydropower disasters will greatly affect the environment and life, change the entire ecosystem, land and infrastructure, people’s livelihoods and the lives of people upstream in a negative way.

So, in the draft PDP VIII, reducing wind and solar power but increasing hydroelectricity to ensure the RE structure does not seem transparent and fair. If  solar power, wind power and hydroelectricity are all considered renewable energy in definition, it is necessary to clarify the coal power ratio increase (compared to the revised March 2021) and significant decrease of that of wind and solar power. Two major issues to be revised are balancing the proportion of renewable energy, there should be an increase of hydroelectricity to compensate for the huge reduction of wind and solar power and keeping the proportion of RE in balance with coal-fired power and other power sources.

Mr. Huan thought that compensating for the overloaded grid is the limitation of RE. However, there is no policy so it is necessary to mention power direct selling. In the world, there are many applied models that a solar power plant does not generate power to the grid but sells to nearby consumers. “EVN and the Ministry of Industry and Trade have had a policy for a long time, but for some reason they have not implemented it. If this can be done, it will also be an effective tool to reduce power generation on the grid and limit the negative side ofwind and solar power,” said Mr. Huan.

Source: Enternews (VIE)/Enternews (EN)