Senior officials of the state-owned coal mining group Vietnam National Coal and Mineral Industries Holding Corporation Limited (Vinacomin) said at a Friday meeting that it supplied more than 36 million tons of coal to operate thermal power projects last year, up seven million tons over 2018 and 12 million tons over 2017.

As power consumption in Vietnam increases, it is expected that the demand for coal to serve thermal power plants could rise to 50 million tons in 2020 and double that in 2030, they said.

The government has directed Vinacomin to ensure sufficient coal supply for the power plants, via domestic production and imports.

"Vinacomin will have to import 12 million tons of coal this year and the figure will rise to 30.5 million five years later and 50 million in 2030," Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung said at the meeting.

Under the national Power Development Plan VII, a total of 60,000 MW is expected to be generated by 2020, with coal-fired plants accounting for 42.7 percent, followed by hydropower (30.1 percent), gas-fired plants (14.9 percent), and renewables (9.9 percent).

Once a coal exporter, Vietnam last year spent an estimated $3.75 million importing 43.5 million tons of coal, up 190 percent in volume and 148 percent in value against 2018, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Vietnam has already struck deals to buy electricity from Laos to mitigate power shortages predicted to hit the country from this year onwards.

The industry ministry estimates shortages of 3.7 billion kWh in 2021 and nearly 10 billion kWh the following year.

The ministry said not more than 5-8 percent of electricity can be conserved, and the only way out is to import more from Laos and China. It also added that buying from neighboring countries was just a temporary solution, and in the long run it was necessary to speed up work on large power generation projects.

Vietnam currently has 26 operating thermal power plants with a total capacity of 13.810 MW.

Stop coal plants, activists say

Concerned by the environmental and health toll that coal-fired power plants exact, leaders of 12 networks and non-government organizations collectively urged Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc early this month to stop 14 coal-fired new plants in Vietnam.

The 14 projects, located in eight provinces – Quang Ninh and Bac Giang in northern Vietnam, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Binh Thuan in central Vietnam, and the southern Long An, Tien Giang and Soc Trang – will have a total capacity of 17,390 MW.

Last November, a report by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, prepared in collaboration with Denmark’s Energy Agency also warned Vietnam against building new coal-fired power plants.

It said the country needs early action to reduce future coal demand, which could include taxation on the use of coal or limits on new coal-based power generation.

By Anh Minh - VnExpress.net - January 12, 2020