World Bank urges Vietnam to shun coal

By Ha Phuong   September 30, 2016 | 07:30 pm GMT+7

"When I ask [Vietnam] about using renewables they say ‘we would but it’s too expensive’," the World Bank president recalls.

President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim has expressed his concern over Vietnam’s plan of building a network of coal plant in a speech at the Climate Week New York which concluded Thursday.

“When I ask them about using renewables they say ‘we would but it’s too expensive’,” Kim said in his speech. “We are bringing to the table all the tools we need to bring the costs down significantly and quickly.”

Vietnam has imported more than 9.7 million tons of coal valued at $600 million over the past eight months, almost double the quantity in the same period last year, latest data from Vietnam Customs shows. 

By 2030, half of the country’s power will come from coal, with 83 plants across the country, according to the revised government Power Development Master Plan VII.

“It’s a very complicated and sensitive issue," Remy Genevey, the director of the French Development Agency in Vietnam, told VnExpress International at the European Climate Diplomacy Week, which wrapped up last week in Hanoi. Vietnam's current electricity demand of 35 gigawatts is forecasted to rise to over 100 gigawatts in 2030, meaning electricity demand is set to grow twice as fast as GDP, he added. 

The country is considering plans for up to 40 gigawatts of new coal power, believing it will be more affordable than solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy. When it comes to power prices, coal power takes nine cents per kilowatt hour, while for solar the price is around 13 cents.

In May, World Bank's Kim warned that plans to build more coal-fired power plants in Asia would be a “disaster for the planet”. “If Vietnam goes forward with 40 gigawatts of coal, if the entire region implements the coal-based plans right now, I think we are finished,” he said.

Coal emits most carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour. Source: U.N.s estimation

Coal emits most carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour. Source: U.N.'s estimation

The World Bank, together with the European Union Ambassadors in Vietnam, offered to give Vietnam a hand in developing and implementing climate change policies and renewable source of energy.

Last December, 195 nations gathered in Paris to negotiate a new global climate agreement on a plan to limit global warming to well below 2C. That agreement is expected to enter into force later this year.

The U.S. and China have formally joined, with India and the E.U. promising to do so in October. Vietnam is moving forward to the ratification of the agreement.

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