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Long-awaited Vietnam energy plan aims to boost renewables, but fossil fuels still in the mix

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (AP) – Power outages are leaving Vietnamese homes and businesses without power for hours at a time, as a prolonged drought and high temperatures strain the fast-growing economy’s capacity to keep up.

A long-anticipated plan meant to fix the energy crunch and help achieve ambitious climate change goals will offer some relief but may not go far enough in weaning the country off of fossil fuels, experts said. The need for progress is evident. Streetlights have been turned off in some major cities and businesses have been told to cut energy use. Amid severe drought, two out of the three largest hydroelectric reservoirs in Vietnam have almost completely stopped operating.

“It is a big headache for us,” said Deputy Director of Hoa Long printing company in Hanoi Nguyen Thanh Tam. “We need power to operate the machines.” The national energy plan, called Power Development Plan 8 or PDP8, aims to more than double the maximum power Vietnam can generate to some 150 gigawatts by 2030.

That’s more than the capacity of developed countries like France and Italy, though well below Japan’s 290GW.

It calls for a drastic shift away from heavily-polluting coal, expanding use of domestic gas and imported liquefied natural gas or LNG, which will account for about 25 per cent of total generating capacity, while hydropower, wind, solar and other renewable sources will account for nearly 50 per cent by 2030.

“This plan showcases Vietnam’s macroeconomic growth ambitions – with robust plans to expand its generation capacity and the associated power sector infrastructure required to cater to the country’s growing energy demand,” said Chief of Staff at Sustainable Energy for All, the United Nations’ sustainable energy unit Kanika Chawla.

Power lines in Hanoi, Vietnam. PHOTO: AP