Drought, scorching summer demand turn the heat on power industry

By Dang Khoa   May 31, 2020 | 05:46 pm PT
Drought, scorching summer demand turn the heat on power industry
Arid soil in the Binh Phan water pumping station of Cho Gao District in Ben Tre Province, March 21, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
Prolonged drought and increased summer demand are exerting great pressure on the electricity industry as water levels in several major dams drop significantly.

Doan Tien Cuong, director of Ialy Hydropower Company, told local media that water level at the 720 MW Ialy Hydropower Plant in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, the third largest hydropower project in the country with an average annual production of 3.68 billion kWh, is just nine meters above the dead water level.

This has happened because water flows to the reservoir during this year’s dry season, which normally lasts from late November to late April, was 27 cubic meters per second, just one third of the previous year’s volume.

According to the Dai Ninh Hydropower Company, the plant in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong seriously lacks water. The plant’s water level was at just 1.6 meters above the dead water level on May 21.

For 2020, the plant had targeted an output of 495 million kWh of electricity but as of end May, the figure stood at 138 million kWh, just 28 percent of the year’s plan.

The National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting has said that water levels in rivers and streams in the northern, central and Central Highlands regions are set to be 20-60 percent below average from January to July.

Vietnam currently relies largely on hydropower and thermal power for its electricity needs.

EVN said that total electricity production in the first four months of this year reached 18.54 billion kWh, down 9.5 percent compared to the same period last year. Of this, electricity generated from hydropower plants was 11.6 billion kWh, a 36.5 percent year-on-year drop.

Meanwhile, scorching summer weather has seen electricity demand surge, exerting more pressure on the power industry.

Vietnam's electricity consumption peaked at 789.6 million kWh on May 21, surpassing the previous record of 782.9 million kWh set on June 21 of last year.

National power utility Vietnam Electricity (EVN), Vietnam’s monopoly electricity distributor, said that the surge in electronic consumption was caused by the hot and humid weather across many northern and central provinces.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT), the 2020 electricity demand forecast for the system is 255,613 billion kWh, an increase of 6.5 percent compared to 2019.

Use less power, please

As the country faces growing threat to energy security, state agencies have called on all sections of society to reduce power consumption and are seeking solutions in thermal and solar power.

Vietnam plans to import 12 million tons of coal this year, 30 million tons in 2025 and 50 million tons in 2030 to fuel thermal power plants. MoIT has also asked investors of coal-fired power plants to proactively prepare fuel sources including plans to use mixed coal, ensuring the highest availability of units.

On the other hand, PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc signed a new decree, effective May 22, to further push solar power development in Vietnam.

EVN Deputy General Director Vo Quang Lam affirmed that the new rooftop solar power was the way forward for tapping renewable energy sources in Vietnam. The country is preparing plans to pay consumers who produce rooftop solar power and send it to the grid.

Lam said there were 27,990 customers who have installed rooftop solar power systems with a total capacity of 578 MW in Vietnam, of which 22,900 are households and 5,096 are businesses.

EVN’s is hoping to have more customers install the rooftop systems. It has said that it would create favorable conditions for people to install rooftop solar power systems to reach a total capacity of 1,000 MW this year.

Vietnam now aims for 10.7 percent of its total electricity output to be generated from renewable energy by 2030.

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