Vietnam faces transmission conundrum for renewable energy

By Anh Minh   September 9, 2020 | 02:45 am PT
Vietnam faces transmission conundrum for renewable energy
Solar panels seen in a complex in the central Binh Thuan Province. Photo by VnExpress/Tran Trung.
Vietnam’s national grid is ill-equipped to handle the power surge from new renewable energy plants seeking to come online this year.

National utility Vietnam Electricity (EVN) has said in a recent report that the construction of new transmission lines might not be able to match the speed of new solar and wind power projects.

The country had 23,000 MW of renewable projects operating by the end of August, and another 17,000 MW has been approved to be added to the national plan, it said.

Many solar power developers are rushing to complete their projects by the end of this year to benefit from the incentive tariff of 7.09 cents per kWh, it added.

Energy experts say constructing a new solar power project takes about six months, while building a transmission line could take two or three years.

Land clearance, which typically takes a long time in Vietnam, could further delay the completion of transmission lines, they added.

This is a major problem facing EVN in the southern region. Lam Xuan Tuan, deputy director of the Southern Power Corporation, said that the company is still negotiating with households to acquire land for seven out of 66 towers needed to build the 110 kv Thap Cham – Ninh Phuoc line in the southern province of Ninh Thuan, which was scheduled to begin operations this month.

EVN said it is also facing difficulties in persuading power plants to shut down during daytime to connect them to the grid. This has led to some of the construction of transmission lines being carried out at night, which also takes more time.

The National Load Dispatch Center (NLDC) under EVN has been lowering output from hydropower plants to prioritize solar plants to prevent overloading of the national grid.

EVN said that until now, it has been able to ensure production for 113 renewable plants in the country by building or upgrading 21 transmission lines since the second quarter last year, when 90 new solar power projects began operations and overloaded the national grid.

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