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Vietnamese Advocates of Solar Power Begin “Million Green Homes” Project

The project is being undertaken by the new Vietnam Coalition for Climate Action, formed in August by a group of leaders from business, academia

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Vietnamese, Advocates, Solar Power
FILE - A solar panel installation is seen near a wind turbine at the Phu Lac wind farm in southern Vietnam's Binh Thuan province, April 23, 2019. VOA

Vietnamese advocates of solar power have begun a “Million Green Homes” project, aimed at spreading the use of solar power in the country instead of coal and other fossil fuels.

The project is being undertaken by the new Vietnam Coalition for Climate Action, formed in August by a group of leaders from business, academia and public organizations, and is designed to use a combination of public outreach and financial initiatives to get solar power on an additional million buildings.

Despite the “homes” in the project name, it is aimed at any small electricity consumers, especially those that can’t afford the cost of converting to solar power on their own, such as farms, small businesses, offices, and public buildings, such as hospitals and schools.

The project will focus on two types of solar power — panels connected to the national power grid that can supply electricity broadly and panels that generate electricity solely for the buildings to which they are attached.

Vietnamese, Advocates, Solar Power
FILE – A business in Ho Chi Minh City promotes solar panels. VOA

Advocates are also encouraging Vietnamese to use more solar power for uses ranging from stoves to water heaters.

The project is being conducted by the Green Innovation and Development Centre, a Hanoi-based organization that promotes sustainable development in Vietnam and the Mekong region. The project is now examining how to spread awareness and make solar power affordable to under-served communities.

The center will start a pilot project next year for new solar power consumers all across Vietnam, including Hanoi in the north and several provinces, such as Thua Thien-Hue in central Vietnam, Dak Lak in the central highlands, and  An Giang and Hau Giang in the south. The project will identify households and other small consumers eligible for support and help them install solar panels.

Environmentalists are pushing ahead with the effort, even though renewable energy discussions here have largely focused on government policies and corporate issues, and foreign investors want to be paid more for their electricity before they invest in solar power.

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“Climate change poses a real threat to the natural environment that supports all of humanity and the critical habitats that we work to protect,” said Van Ngoc Thinh, Vietnam country director of the World Wide Fund For Nature, one of the members of the coalition.

“I call on all committed leaders from across the private sector, universities, subnational governments, and civil society to join the VCCA to take climate action,” he added.

Coal plans

Another environmental organization in the climate alliance, the Ho Chi Minh City-based Center of Hands-on Actions and Networking for Growth and Environment, or CHANGE,  stressed in an email “the urgency of forming the alliance and the specific actions the alliance can contribute to promoting the use of rooftop solar [photovoltaic cells] and other energy-saving and green solutions.”

Vietnamese, Advocates, Solar Power
FILE – A solar water heater, left, and a solar panel are seen at Entech Hanoi, an international trade fair on energy efficiency and the environment, at the Giang Vo Exhibition Center in Hanoi, Vietnam. VOA

Much of that urgency comes from Vietnam’s increasing use of coal for energy, even while it considers itself one of the countries most at threat from climate change. The World Wide Fund For Nature in Vietnam said the Southeast Asian country plans to increase the number of coal-fired power plants from 20 now to 51 by 2030, which would cause carbon dioxide emissions to increase even more than expected.

Even amid government policies favoring more coal-fired plants, the government has expressed support for new types of energy sources.

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“Vietnam’s government always encourages the development and effective use of renewable energy sources,” Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung said at an event this summer. (VOA)

Next Story

Solar Power Starts Growing in Vietnam

Vietnam Goes Big on Solar Power

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Solar Power
Solar power is making a strong showing in Vietnam after years of shuttling from one extreme to the other. Pixabay

Solar power is making a strong showing in Vietnam after years of shuttling from one extreme to the other, with the nation looking sometimes like it would revert to coal, and other times like it would invest in renewable energy.

By the end of last year Vietnam had surpassed Malaysia and Thailand to reach the largest installed capacity of solar power in Southeast Asia, with 44% of the total capacity, according to figures from Wood Mackenzie, a firm that sells consulting services in the energy industry.

The figures show that Vietnam is serious about solar power, an issue that had been up for debate for years. Solar supporters were encouraged to see the government offer a high feed in tariff (FIT), a fee pioneered in Germany to let solar panel owners sell power to the grid. This helped push Vietnam to reach 5.5 gigawatts of solar capacity last year.

Vietnam is also planning to construct more power plants fed with coal, casting doubt on the goal of more clean energy. Public resistance to coal appears to have shelved some of the construction, at least for now.

Solar Power
Solar power installation near a wind turbine at the Phu Lac wind farm in southern Vietnam’s Binh Thuan province. Pixabay

“FITs have proven to be an effective policy tool to induce rapid growth in renewables, and Vietnam’s build is another example of that,” Rishab Shrestha, a solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said. He added that “project economics will continue to remain attractive in large parts of Vietnam.”

Like other nations, Vietnam has yet to deal with some of the potential drawbacks of solar power, such as how to dispose of photo voltaic panels responsibly. The panels contain toxic chemicals like lead and cannot be recycled easily.

However solar and other renewable power, such as from wind, remains one of the cleanest options for Vietnam at the moment. It joins a growing global trend, from California, which enacted a law this year to require all new homes come with solar panels, to India, where railways are switching to solar power.

Next, Vietnam will have to decide how much it will pay for solar power. The tariff used to be more than nine U.S. cents per kilowatt hour but that price expired in June. Investors are waiting on a decision, which is being jointly prepared by three ministries, the Office of the Government, and the state power utility, according to Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, a law firm that advises clients on solar power. As part of the process, Vietnam Electricity, the state utility, sent a letter to the trade ministry with recommendations on how to set the tariff and who would be eligible.

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“The submission letter is not very clear,” said Oliver Massmann, general director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, in a blog post.

However he predicts that the government will settle on a tariff of just over seven U.S. cents per kilowatt hour for ground-mounted solar power projects, and a slightly higher tariff for floating solar power projects. Vietnam is pushing investors to provide power more affordably as consumption needs rise in the fast-growing economy. (VOA)