Electricity restored after forest fires impact transmission lines

By Nguyen Hoai   June 29, 2019 | 12:21 am PT
Electricity restored after forest fires impact transmission lines
At times the fire even engulfed a section of the 500 kV line. Photo by VnExpress.
Vietnam Electricity has fully restored northern and central power grids after forest fires affected the 500 kV North-South transmission line Friday.

Vietnam Electricity (EVN), the country's sole power distributor, said it had inspected power grid units affected by the forest fire in Huong Thuy town of Thua Thien Hue Province that raged for seven hours Friday, and deemed them safe for operation.

In an hour after it was put out, EVN restored electricity along the 1 km Da Nang-Ha Tinh section of the 500 kV North-South transmission line. The company said it will closely monitor weather conditions and transmission lines to ensure the national power system continues to run smoothly.

Forest fires broke out Friday in Ha Tinh and Thua Thien-Hue provinces and Da Nang City, central Vietnam, threatening the safety of the North-South 500kV line.

"At times the fire even engulfed a section of the 500 kV line. As of 6 p.m Friday. the forest fire was yet to be contained, causing the risk of completely splitting the north and the central-south power systems," EVN said.

The cause of the fires is still unclear, but the central region has been going through a prolonged heat wave, with temperatures peaking at 39 degrees Celcius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) on recent days and forecast to reach 40 degrees this weekend. The scorching weather has increased the risks of forest fires.

Workers put out the fire near the 500 kV North-South transmission line. Photo by VnExpress.

Workers put out the fire near the 500 kV North-South transmission line. Photo by VnExpress.

Heat troubles

The prolonged heat wave could endanger the transmission line, while causing power consumption in northern and central regions to skyrocket, Vietnamese electricity companies had said, warning of impending power cuts.

According to the National Load Dispatch Center (A0) under EVN, the country's electricity consumption reached 37,136 MW at 1 p.m. on Friday, just about 1,000 MW less than the peak consumption recorded a week earlier.

While electricity consumption has not reached the maximum capacity, electricity production in the northern region is encountering difficulties as a number of coal-powered generators with a total capacity of over 2,000 MW could not be operated due to various reasons.

Specifically, some generators in Son Dong, Cam Pha, Hai Phong and Quang Ninh thermal power plants have broken down; the Mong Duong 1 and Mong Duong 2 plants have had to reduce their capacities due to the generators' cooling liquid heating up in the hot weather; and the Vung Ang thermal power plant is suffering from a coal shortage.

At the same time, water levels have dropped drastically in reservoirs of major hydropower plants on the Da River such as Son La and Hoa Binh.

"Electricity generation in the northern region cannot meet the demands despite having fully exploited the transmission capacity of the 500 kV North-South line," EVN said.

In order to ensure safe operation of the power system, A0 was forced to reduce electricity supply to a number of areas in the northern and central regions Friday, and might have to extend this to Saturday if the heat wave remains intense. 

In an attempt to reduce electricity consumption during peak hours to ensure safety, local electricity companies have informed their customers of potential power cuts should the electricity system shows signs of overload.

Vietnam's electricity consumption exceeded 38,000 MW for the first time in history Friday last week, reaching the record-high value of 38,147 MW.

In order to meet the increasingly high demand of the past few days, EVN has had to frequently use oil-powered generators, which have very high operating costs of VND3,500-5,000 ($0.15-0.21) per kWh. The national power utility had to generate 2,000 MW from oil-powered generators to meet the record-high demand on Friday last week, it said.

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