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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs       16  February 2011

Support needed to develop Vietnam green power

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The development of green energy to replace hydro- and thermal power requires strong policy backing, experts have said.

Though HCM City is sunny all year around, it has only one solar power plant that was set up in Can Gio District last month, according to Huynh Kim Tuoc, director of the HCM City Energy Conservation Centre.

The VND14.8 billion (US$708,000) plant built by the HCM City Electricity Company supplies electricity to 172 out of the existing 204 local households.

Vietnam has exhausted its main energy source, hydro-power, which also causes destruction of forests and erosion of land, according to Tuoc.

The country's other power sources like coal and petroleum are limited.

"With HCM City being one of the cities most at risk from climate change in Southeast Asia, research and development of environmentally friendly power has become more necessary than ever," he added.

Phan Minh Tan, director of the city Department of Science and Technology, said while solar and wind energy were more eco-friendly than conventional sources, they also cost much more to produce.

Only some developed countries like Germany had the financial capability to make extensive use of these renewable energies, he said.

"It costs Germany 22 euro cents (29 US cents) to produce 1kW of solar power but government support enables electricity companies to sell at half the price," he explained.

"Though Viet Nam has plenty of sources of green energy, the developing country does not have the ability to turn them into electricity."

Last month a US firm that manufactures low-cost solar cells received a licence to set up a plant in HCM City.

Instead of the commonly used silicon solar cells that cost $6 - 7 for a panel, this unit will produce polymer solar cells at $1.

However, the cost of energy produced using them will still not be lower than that of hydro-electricity. "The Department of Science and Technology is going to get wind-energy-technology from Russia." It needs a wind of just 1.5 metres per second instead of the usual 15-20 metres. "Though it is the latest technology, the project needs support from the government," Tan said. Hoang Huu Than, director of the Electric Power Consulting and Development Center, also said the city needs a long-term strategy on using renewable energy.

The demand for electricity in the dry season this year is expected to increase by 14 percent year on year.

However, according to Electricity of Viet Nam, supply is likely to be lower due to the lack of water in reservoirs and delay in construction of several thermal plants.

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