Nghia said that hydraulic resources have been fully exploited to generate electricity worldwide and in Vietnam. After a period of focusing on hydropower, other countries now are stepping up development of coal-fired power plants which are now the main source of electricity supply.

“The proportion of thermal power plants in Vietnam was still modest in 2015, but it will play the key role in generating electricity to serve the economy and people’s daily life by 2020,” he said.

Only countries rich in natural gas like Russia and countries which suffer from serious electricity shortages will make investments in gas-fired thermopower.

Meanwhile, the electricity output from renewable sources remains modest, even in developed countries. Therefore, Vietnam cannot consider developing renewable energy as a priority task for now, he said.

Coal-fired thermal power plants can generate electricity at the lowest production cost, approximately 7 cent per kwh, while the investment rate is acceptable, at $1,500 per kwh, lower than hydropower, solar, wind and nuclear power. It takes about three years to build a coal-fired thermopower plant.

Nghia admitted that the biggest disadvantage of coal-fired plants is the big volume of emissions, which comprises gas and solid waste.

However, he pointed out that in terms of chemical composition, the ash from coal firing contains useful elements for making building materials, and does not have heavy metal elements such as lead and mercury.

To deal with gas waste, Nghia said power plants now spend up to hundreds of millions of dollars on treatment systems to ensure that emission concentrations are below the permitted level.

“Therefore, there is no need to be too worried about emissions from coal-fired thermopower plants,” Nghia said.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Minh Due, chair of the Vietnam Energy Science Council, said high technology can only help improve the performance and reduce fuel consumption. In principle, when burning coal, this will produce CO2 and toxic substances to the environment.

Tran Van Luong from MOIT said the all the ash and slag from the 21 coal-fired thermopower plants have been analyzed and are ‘normal solid waste’.

However, according to QCVN 07:2009/BTNMT standards on hazardous waste, the flying ash from thermopower plants ‘is likely to be listed as hazardous waste’.

An FIA report shows that FDI capital keeps flowing to coal-fired thermopower plants. Two projects of this kind have been licensed this year, including the $2.793 billion Nghi Son 2 registered by Japanese investors and $2.07 billion Nam Dinh 1 by a Singaporean investor.

By Thanh Lich - VietNamNet Bridge - September 8, 2017