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Renewable energy to help Vietnam tackle air pollution

By YANG HAN in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-12 10:19

Men row their boats on West Lake amid high levels of air pollution in Hanoi on April 1. NHAC NGUYEN/AFP

Vietnam has huge potential in developing renewable energy as the country works to deal with air pollution through green transition, experts say.

Already, since making its global commitments to green energy, Vietnam has canceled or shelved a number of coal-fired energy generation projects, said Richard Ramsawak, a lecturer of economics at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology-University Vietnam, or RMIT University Vietnam.

"This significant number at least signals the level of intent of Vietnam's leadership in meeting these international targets," said Ramsawak, even though coal will likely remain a major source of energy in the coming years.

On April 8, Vuong Dinh Hue, chairman of the National Assembly of Vietnam, met with several leaders of Chinese companies operating in transport and energy as part of his official visit to China.

In a meeting with representatives of the China International Energy Group, Hue commended the group's effective and sustainable investment across the globe including Vietnam and welcomed its recommendation to support Vietnam in building policies and master plans for power network.

Vietnam has pledged to achieve net zero by 2050. Last year, it announced that it would not develop new coal power plants after 2030 and phase out coal usage by 2050.

The Vietnam government approved on April 1 the implementation road map of the country's eighth national power development plan, or PDP8, for 2021-30, with a vision to 2050, according to English-language daily Vietnam News.

Key power projects

The list of key power projects includes investment in thermal power, liquefied natural gas power, and renewable energy sources.

The transition to green energy is pressing as Vietnam's PM2.5 levels increased nearly 9 percent in 2023, back to pre-pandemic concentrations, according to a report by the air monitoring website IQAir in March.

Air pollution sources in Vietnam include an aging fleet of vehicles, coal power plants, industrial activities, indoor coal and biomass cooking stoves, ineffective waste management practices and agriculture, the report said, adding that climate conditions like El Nino also intensified existing air quality issues in Southeast Asia in 2023.

To realize the commitment of achieving the net-zero target by 2050, Vietnam should accelerate the green transition in energy and transport, said Nguyen Bao Huy, an expert with the research lab Control Technique and Innovation for Electric Vehicles at the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology in Vietnam.

"In fact we are doing that," said Huy, adding that, according to the PDP8, the installed renewable energy resources in Vietnam will account for 30-39 percent of the country's energy mix by 2030 and up to 71 percent by 2050.

Noting the internal combustion engines of vehicles are one of the biggest pollution emission sources, Huy said transportation electrification should be a solution.

"The Vietnamese government is also active in preparing for this energy transition in transportation," said Huy, who has recently been in a research team coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme Vietnam to carry out a consultant study for the Vietnamese government on planning infrastructure for electric vehicles charging on expressways.

Also, "there is a window of opportunity here for Vietnam to maintain its position as a manufacturing center for Southeast Asia built on manufacturing powered by renewable energy," said Ramsawak.

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