Malaysia's Janakuasa begins work on $2.2 billion coal-fired power plant in Vietnam

By VnExpress   August 4, 2016 | 07:30 am GMT+7
Malaysia's Janakuasa begins work on $2.2 billion coal-fired power plant in Vietnam
The coal-fired power plant Vinh Tan 2 in the central province of Binh Thuan, which grabbed headlines last year due to the pollution it caused. Photo courtesy Voice of Vietnam

Vietnam continues to rely on coal to generate power, but experts urge rethink.

Malaysian company Teknik Janakuasa has started work on a 1,200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh, Vietnam's first such facility to use imported coal.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Duyen Hai 2 power plant took place Wednesday, news site VietnamPlus reported. Construction on the $2.2-billion build-operate-transfer plant is expected to wrap up in 2021.

Aside from Duyen Hai 2, there are three more coal-fired power projects in Tra Vinh. Vietnam plans to build several other coal-fired power plants elsewhere in the Mekong Delta such as Hau Giang, Long An and Soc Trang, according to the blueprint on national power development until 2030.

Coal-fired power plants are expected to churn out a total of 26,000 MW of electricity by 2020, accounting for 49.3 percent of the Vietnam’s total power generation capacity. By 2030, coal fired plants will take over hydropower as the main source of electricitiy, accounting for 53.2 percent, as set out in the seventh Power Development Master Plan (PDMP).

Source: Seventh PDMP

Vietnam's increased dependence on coal-fired power plants comes at a time when experts are urging a rethink of such environmentally-unfriendly trajectory.

Tomaso Andreatta, vice chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham) in Vietnam, said at an international conference on clean energy in Asia last month that Vietnam should gradually stop the construction of new coal-fired power plants to avoid an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution levels, according to the Vietnam Investment Review newspaper.

“Many nations have stopped using coal for operating their power plants because of concerns over the environmental risks," the newspaper quoted Andreatta as saying. "Vietnam should follow suit.” 

Investors from countries with strict pollution limits are designing, financing and/or constructing coal-fired power plants in Vietnam with technological specifications that are not acceptable in their home countries, said Koos Neefjes, former policy advisor of United Nations Development Program in Vietnam.

A coal-fired power project, the 1,200-MW Vinh Tan 2 in the central province of Binh Thuan, grabbed headlines last year due to the environmental pollution it caused. In April 2015, thousands of local people had blockaded National Highway No 1A for many hours to complain to authorities about coal dust and cinder from the power plant.

According to a UNDP report, Vinh Tan 2 is producing 4,400 tons of waste per day, causing widespread dust pollution in fields, settlements and homes, since the first of two units of Vinh Tan 2 were put into operations in January 2014.

Air pollution from coal-fired power plants at a national scale is also rising significantly.

If all coal-fired power plants proposed under the government’s masterplan for power development were to be built by 2030, premature deaths caused by emissions from coal-fired power plants in Vietnam would raise from an estimated 4,263 in 2011 to 25,402 in 2030, according to the UNDP report.

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