General Electric Co. is teaming up with an emerging market-focused renewable power developer to build $1.5 billion of new wind projects in Vietnam.

Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power Ltd. signed a deal to develop large-scale wind power plants in Vietnam with GE putting up a portion of the funding and providing technology, a Mainstream Renewable executive said in an interview Tuesday.

“Vietnam is going to be a huge importer of energy” as the economy grows, said Mainstream Renewable Chief Operating Officer Andy Kinsella. “There’s huge demand for power and they can balance the equation with renewables.”

Countries like Vietnam are pushing to increase the share of wind and solar to power their economic growth as the cost of generating renewable energy declines, making it competitive with coal and liquefied natural gas. Vietnam’s government has set a target of increasing its power output to more than 330 billion kilowatt-hours by 2020 from roughly 200 billion kilowatt-hours in 2015.

That expanding power supply could help meet rising demand as it tries to boost economic growth.

“Vietnam continues to outperform,” said HSBC Asia economist Frederic Neumann in a note Tuesday to clients. “The government is pressing ahead with structural reforms, which, if pursued rigorously, should lift Vietnam’s growth rate over time.”

For General Electric, the wind power projects fit with its push into fast-growing markets and a shift in its financing operations to focusing primarily on funding infrastructure projects where it can apply its industrial technology.

Mainstream Renewable Power is a major independent power supplier focused on growing markets including South Africa and Chile. In August it won contracts to supply renewable energy in Chile as part of the country’s largest ever power auction that awarded contracts to supply electricity over 20 years starting in 2021.

The $1.5 billion investment by Mainstream Renewable and GE in Vietnam will be funded with a mix of equity and debt. Construction on the projects are expected to begin in 2018 and will add 1 gigawatt to Vietnam’s overall power capacity. Vietnam’s overall power capacity was at 34 gigawatts at the end of 2014, according to government figures.

The foreign aid arm of the U.S. government estimates that installed wind power capacity in Vietnam is currently 135 megawatts.

By Rick Carew - The Wall Street Jpurnal - September 27, 2016