Shortage looms despite large wind, solar power capacity

By Anh Minh   May 19, 2022 | 09:31 pm PT
Shortage looms despite large wind, solar power capacity
Wind turbines in central Ninh Thuan Province. Photo by VnExpress/Quang Tue
Wind and solar power account for a third of capacity and generate 15 percent of output in Vietnam, but there is still a risk of shortages in summer.

Vietnam has wind power plants with a capacity of 3,900 MW, but most of the time their output is less than half of this, according to data from the National Load Dispatch Center.

On March 19, for instance, there was little or no wind and the output fell to 15 MW, or 0.37 percent of capacity.

EVN deputy general director Vo Quang Lam said power generated from wind changes not just seasonally but daily, even hourly.

Ha Dang Son, director of the Center for Energy and Green Growth Research, said renewables were insignificant in the past with small-scale plants only.

But they are now a vital part of the power grid, and so it is a challenge for operators to overcome the uncertainty, and a forecasting tool to match demand and supply is imperative, he said.

Trinh Quoc Vu, vice chief of staff of the Steering Committee for Energy Saving, cited the example of Ireland, which exports power to neighboring Britain, but struggles in winter, the peak season amid demand for heating, when there is no wind to generate power.

He also pointed to geographical and transmission limitations faced by renewables.

Wind and solar power plants are concentrated in Vietnam’s central and southern parts, where demand is lower than the north, while transmission infrastructure is inadequate.

EVN estimated that the northern part may lack about 1,500-2,400 MW during the summer’s peak.

Currently, Vietnam only generates 40,000 MW of electricity as against a designed capacity of 76,600 MW.

Renewable sources accounted for 30 percent of total installed capacity, or 20,700 megawatts, at the end of last year, according to national utility Vietnam Electricity.

They generated 13.2 billion kilowatt-hours in the first four months of this year, accounting for 15.4 percent of production.

Ensuring supply

To ensure power supply during the peak season, EVN said it could buy 130 MW from Laos and 500 MW from China if needed. It is also planning to expand some hydropower plants and stock up on coal and gas for generators.

Lam said electricity production should increase by 8.3-12.4 percent this year to meet post-Covid recovery demand.

It needs to develop energy as a service market to stabilize the power grid and optimize supply, he added.

Experts called for promoting energy-saving solutions to reduce the burden on the power grid.

Vietnam has yet to become an energy-efficient country, using up to 400 kilograms of oil for each US$1,000 to GDP. It is 30 percent higher than the rate for Thailand, 40 percent higher than Malaysia’s and four or five times higher than the U.S.’s.

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