Vietnam exploits all four big sources of renewable energy: hydroelectricity, wind power, solar power and biomass. The potential for hydroelectricity is well developed. By the end of 2018, hydropower was the largest source of renewable energy, contributing about 40% to the total national electricity capacity.[1]

Excluding medium and large-sized hydropower plants, other renewable energy sources accounted for 2.1% of the total capacity of the whole system in mid-2019,[1] but that number is increasing fast. The lead-up to the expiration of the initial solar feed-in tariff (FIT) of US$93.5/MWh saw a large increase in Vietnam’s installed capacity of solar PV, from 86 MW in 2018 to about 4.5 GW by the end of June 2019.[2] The number reached about 16.5 GW as of the end of 2020.[3] This represents an annualized installation rate of about 90 W per capita per annum, placing Vietnam among world leaders. As of 2019, Vietnam has the highest installed capacity in Southeast Asia.[2] In 2020, there are 102 solar power plants operating in the country with a total capacity of 6.3 GW. [1] As of 2021, Vietnam has become one of the most successful ASEAN countries in attracting investment in renewable energy and promoting various types of renewables within the country.[4][5]

Wind and solar have a combined share of 10% of the country's electrical generation at the start of 2020, already meeting the government's 2030 goal, suggesting future displacement of growth of coal capacity.[6] The commercial biomass electricity generation is currently slow and limited to valorizing bagasse only. Still its prospects are positive because the stream of forest products, agricultural and municipal waste is increasing, and the government is studying a renewable portfolio standard that could promote this energy source. By the end of 2020, the total installed capacity of solar and wind power has reached over 17 GW.[3] This also means that over 25% of total power capacity is from variable renewable energy sources (wind, solar). By 2020, Vietnam leads ASEAN in solar and wind uptake, in terms of cummulative installed capacity, annual installation growth rate, and per capita installed capacity.[3]

Hydropower

Hoa Binh Dam - Vietnam
Hoa Binh Dam - Vietnam

By the end of 2018, the country had 818 hydropower projects with a total installed capacity of 23,182 MW [7] and 285 small hydropower plants with a total capacity of about 3,322 MW.[8]

Vietnam has an exploitable hydropower capacity of about 25-38 GW. 60% of this capacity is concentrated in the north of the country, 27% in the center and 13% in the south.[9][10] Large hydropower projects with a capacity of over 100 MW are almost completely exploited.[9]

The country has over 1,000 identified locations for small hydropower plants, ranging from 100 kW to 30 MW, with a total capacity of over 7,000 MW. These locations are concentrated mainly in the northern mountains, the South Central Coast and the Central Highlands.[11]

According to the Revised National Power Development Master Plan for the 2011-2020 Period with the Vision to 2030 [12] (also called PDP 7A/ PDP 7 revised):

Since 1975, Vietnam has developed several typical hydropower projects, including: Son La Hydropower (2400 MW), Lai Chau Hydropower (1200 MW) and Thuy Huoi Quang electricity (560 MW) [11].... For more information about hydropower plants in Vietnam, see List of power stations in Vietnam § Hydroelectric.

In October 2018, the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the provincial People's Committees cancelled 474 hydropower projects and 213 potential sites, recognizing that their impact on the environment and society failed to meet the expected benefits in terms of flood control, irrigation and power generation.[13] The majority of these removed projects were located in the mountainous and midland provinces of the North, Central Highlands and Central Coastal provinces, and implemented by private enterprises.[14]

The decision to cancel about half of the projects pipeline was motivated by a series of incident with small and medium hydropower, especially in the rainy seasons.[15] It is a sign that the incentive mechanisms and policies for hydropower have been too efficient at attracting developers. They did not have the build-in barriers to filter out projects with unacceptable risks. The negative outcomes of hydropower development in Vietnam include:

Wind energy

Vietnam's first high-capacity wind farm, with 30 MW, was inaugurated by the Vietnam Renewable Energy Joint Stock Company (REVN), in the central province of Binh Thuan on April 18.[when?] The next two projects—the Phú Quý island hybrid grid with 6 MW and the near-shore Bac Lieu phase 1 with 16 MW—both completed in 2013. No new capacity was added in 2014 or 2015. Provincial wind power development plans for eight provinces: Bac Lieu, Ben Tre, Binh Thuan, Ca Mau, Ninh Thuan, Quang Tri, Soc Trang and Tra Vinh were published in 2016. That year the 24 MW Phu Lac project in Binh Thuan province and the 83 MW Bac Lieu phase 2 were completed. The following year, the 30 MW Hướng Linh 2 project in the Quang Tri province was connected. By the end of 2018, the total installed wind power capacity in Vietnam reached about 228 MW. The Trung Nam project in Ninh Thuan province inaugurated in April 2019 is a hybrid facility, co-locating a 40MW wind farm (to be extended by 112 MW in phase 2) with a 204 MW solar PV plant.[24]

The wind power industry is taking off in 2019 in Vietnam, although not as spectacularly as the solar power industry. By the end of May 31, 2019, 7 wind power plants were in operation, for a national installed capacity of 331 MW.[25] By the end of this year, in addition to 9 wind power projects that have been certified for commercial operation (COD), there are still 31 projects with a total capacity of 1645 MW that have signed PPA but have not yet COD. In order to avoid an overload like solar power, the Government has issued a directive to prioritize the approval of projects that capacity can be evacucated, along with supplementing the planning of transmission grid projects.

The power development masterplan PDP 7 revised,[12] published in 2016, stated that Vietnam would aim to have 800 MW of wind power capacity by 2020, 2,000 MW by 2025 and 6,000 MW by 2030.[26] By mid 2019, the number of projects under construction was in line to reach the 2020 target, and the number of projects at the "approved" stage was twice what is needed to meet the 2025 target.

Bac Lieu wind power farm
Bac Lieu wind power farm

The image shows the Bac Lieu wind farm, a 99 MW project that demonstrated the economic and technical feasibility of large scale wind power in VietnamHong Thai Vo.; Viet Trung Le; Thi Thu Hang Cao (2019). "Offshore Wind Power in Vietnam: Lessons Learnt from Phu Quy and Bac Lieu Wind Farms". Acta Scientific Agriculture 3.2. 1st Vietnam Symposium on Advances in Offshore Engineering. pp. 26–29. This is the first project in Asia located on intertidal mudflats. As a first of a kind project, it benefited from a feed-in tariff of 9.8 cents/kWh and preferential financial terms from the US-EXIM bank. While the construction was more complex than an onshore project, it is more accessible than an offshore project, and it captures the benefits of the excellent wind regime without impacting the land used for aquaculture or salt production. According to the project's CDM

In April 2019, the Trung Nam renewable energy complex was inaugurated. Built in the Ninh Thuan province, it co-locates a wind farm (total investment capital of 4,000 billion VND) and a solar PV power farm (204 MW, total investment capital of 6,000 billion VND). Phase 1 of the wind power plant is operational with a capacity of 39.95 MW. By the fourth quarter of 2019, the second phase of the project will have an additional capacity of 64 MW. Phase 3 will be completed in 2020 with a capacity of 48 MW.[27] The project was completed in time to benefit from an incitative the feed-in tariff for renewable energy offered by the government. Many other projects were completed in that time window, in excess of the capacity of the transmission network, leading to severe curtailment problems starting in July 2019.

The Thang Long Wind power project proposes to develop large-scale offshore near the Kê Gà area, in the Binh Thuan province. The first phase of the project, for 600 MW, targets to start operating at the end of 2022.[28] The vision is for a total system capacity of about 3,400 MW, at a total investment of nearly US$12 billion, not including investment for connection to the national electricity system.

In 2020 3 projects were inaugurated: Dai Phong (40MW) in Binh Thuan, Huong Linh 1 (30MW) in Quang Tri and phase 2 of Trung Nam complex (64MW) in Ninh Thuan.

By July 21, 2021 there are 13 wind power plants with a total capacity of 611.33 MW that have been certified for commercial operation.[29]

The 100 MW Dong Hai 1 intertidal wind farm in Tra Vinh started in January 2022.[30]

Wind resources

Wind Speed Potential in Vietnam.[31]
Wind Speed Potential in Vietnam.[31]

Vietnam wind resource mostly lies along its coastline of more than 3,000 km, and in the hills and highlands of the northern and central regions.[32] A World Bank ESMAP study (see the table below) estimated that over 39% of Vietnam's area had annual average wind speed over 6 m/s at a height of 65m, equivalent to a total capacity of 512 GW.[33] It estimated that over 8% of Vietnam's land area had annual average wind speed over 7 m/s, equivalent to a total capacity of 110 GW.[26]

Vietnam's onshore wind potential at 65m height[26]
Average wind speed Lower

< 6 m/s

Medium

6–7 m/s

Pretty high

7–8 m/s

High

8–9 m/s

Very high

> 9 m/s

Area (km2) 197,242 100,367 25,679 2,178 111
Area ratio (%) 60.6 30.8 7.9 0.7 >0
Potential capacity (MW) - 401,444 102,716 8,748 482

A comparative study assessed that Vietnam has 8.6% of its land area with "good" to "very good" potential for large wind power stations, while Cambodia has 0.2%, Laos has 2.9%, and Thailand has only 0.2%.[34] In 2021, two offshore wind farms (nearshore 78 and 48 MW) were under construction.[35]

Solar energy

Photovoltaic Power Potential Vietnam.[36]
Photovoltaic Power Potential Vietnam.[36]

Vietnam has a great potential to develop solar power, especially in the central and more southern regions.

The average number of sunshine hours in the North ranges from 1,500-1,700 hours of sunshine per year. Meanwhile, the Central and Southern regions have higher average annual sunshine hours, from 2,000-2,600 hours/year.[37][38]

The average daily solar radiation intensity in the north is 3.69 kWh/m2 and the south is 5.9 kWh/m2. The amount of solar radiation depends on the amount of cloud and the atmosphere of each locality. From one region to another, there is significant variation in solar radiation. Radiation intensity in the South is often higher than in the North.[39]

Solar radiation in Vietnam[39]
Region Average number of sunshine hours Solar radiation intensity

(kWh/m2/day)

Evaluate
Northeast 1,600 – 1,750 3.3 – 4.1 Medium
Northwest 1,750 – 1,800 4.1 – 4.9 Medium
North Central 1,700 – 2,000 4.6 – 5.2 Good
Central Highlands and South Central 2,000 – 2,600 4.9 – 5.7 Very good
Southern 2,200 – 2,500 4.3 – 4.9 Very good
Average country 1,700 – 2,500 4.6 Good

According to the prime minister's 2016 energy plan, solar power was expected to reach 850 MW (0.5%) by 2020, about 4,000 MW (1.6%) in 2025 and about 12,000 MW (3.3%) by 2030.[12]

In the first half of 2018, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) recorded 272 solar power plant projects in planning with a total capacity of about 17,500 MW, 9 times higher than Hoa Binh hydropower plants and 7 times more than Son La hydropower plant.[40] By the end of 2018, there were about 10,000 MW registered, of which 8100 MW was newly added to the plan, more than 100 projects signed power purchase agreements, and two projects came into operation with a total capacity of about 86 MW.[8]

By the end of June 30, 2019, 82 solar power plants, with a total capacity of about 4,464 MW, were approved and commissioned by the National Electricity Regulatory Center.[41] These projects were entitled to an electricity purchase price (FIT) equivalent to 9.35 US¢/kWh for a period of 20 years under Decision 11/2017/QD-TTg [42] of the Prime Minister. At that time, solar power accounted for 8.28% of the installed capacity of Vietnam's electricity system. Through the end of 2019, the Center was expected to put into operation 13 more solar power plants, with a total capacity of 630 MW, bringing the total number of solar power plants in the whole system to 95.[41] The actual installed capacity at the end of 2019 reached almost 5 GW.[6]By the end of July 2021, the total installed capacity of solar power nationwide has reached about 19,400 MWp (of which nearly 9,300 MWp is rooftop solar power), equivalent to about 16,500 MW - accounting for about 25% of the total capacity. installed capacity of the national power system.

Intel Solar Installation Vietnam
Intel Solar Installation Vietnam

Generous FITs and supporting policies such as tax exemptions are found to be the key proximate drivers of Vietnam's solar PV boom. Underlying drivers include the government's desire to enhance energy self-sufficiency and the public's demand for local environmental quality. A key barrier is limited transmission grid capacity.[2]

See also: List of solar power plants in Vietnam

A few large-scale solar power projects have been built in Vietnam:

Tra O lagoon solar power plant project (My Loi commune, Phu My district, Binh Dinh province), with a capacity of 50MWp, was expected to deploy on a water surface area of around 60 hectares of the lagoon's 1,300 hectares in quarter II 2019.[48] However, from mid-2018, during the implementation process, there was fierce opposition from the local people, preventing investors from building projects due to some big concerns about affecting the ecological environment causing death of fish and shrimp under the lagoon (because this is the main income source for the communes surrounding the lagoon) and the water source pollution problem.[49]

Hacom Solar solar power plant project (Phuoc Minh commune, Thuan Nam district, Ninh Thuan province), 50 MWp capacity, was started in April 2019. However, when constructing the factory, the investor (Hacom Solar Energy Co., Ltd) arbitrarily let the vehicles run through people's land. Local people stopped container trucks from transporting materials into the project and complained that the local authorities and the owner of the solar power plant had to meet with land-owners to negotiate compensation plans for the people because the project has violated people's land.[50]

Biomass energy

As an agricultural country, Vietnam has great potential for biomass energy. The main types of biomass are: energy wood, waste (crop residues), livestock waste, municipal waste and other organic wastes. The biomass energy source can be used by burning directly, or forming a biomass fuel.[11]

Since the Prime Minister issued Decision 24/2014/QD-TTg[51] on mechanisms to support the development of biomass power projects in Vietnam, many agricultural by-products has become an important source of materials, reused to create a large energy source. As in the sugarcane industry, the potential of biomass energy from bagasse is quite large. If utilizing and exploiting bagasse sources thoroughly and effectively, it will contribute considerable electricity output, contributing to ensuring national energy security.[52]

By November 2018, there were 38 sugar factories in Vietnam using biomass to produce electricity and heat with a total capacity of about 352 MW. Among them, there were only 4 power plants on the grid with a total capacity of 82.51 MW (22.4%), selling 15% of the electricity generated from biomass to the grid at a price of 5.8 US¢/kWh.[53]

Until the end of 2018, 10 more biomass power plants with a total capacity of 212 MW were put into operation.[8]

By February 2020, the total biomass electricity capacity currently in operation is about 400 MW. In which, co-generation of thermal power at sugar mills still accounts for a large proportion: 390 MW with 175 MW of electricity connected to the grid. The rest about 10 MW is from garbage power projects.

The PDP 7A[12] specifies for the development of biomass power: Co-generation in sugar mills, food processing plants, food plants; implement co-firing biomass fuel with coal at coal power plants; electricity generation from solid waste, etc. The proportion of electricity produced from biomass energy sources reaches about 1% by 2020, about 1.2% by 2025 and about 2.1% by 2030.

Some examples of biomass power plants using bagasse:

Solid waste energy (waste-to-energy)

On average, nearly 35,000 tons of urban domestic solid waste and 34,000 tons of rural domestic solid waste are released every day. In big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, there are 7-8,000 tons of waste per day. The amount of garbage is being wasted due to not being fully utilized for energy production.[56]

As of early 2019, Vietnam had 9.03 MW of waste-to-energy (WtE) electricity. The Go Cat power plant has a capacity of 2.43 MW, Can Tho power generation solid waste treatment plant has a capacity of 6 MW, and an industrial waste treatment plant generating electricity at Nam Son garbage disposal area has a capacity of 0.6 MW.[57]

On February 18, 2019, Hau Giang WtE power plant project (Hau Giang province) will have a capacity of 12 MW, of which phase 1 (6 MW capacity) will be put into operation in 2019 and phase 2 (6 MW capacity) will be run in 2024. This plant is connected to the national electricity system by 22 kV voltage. Phu Tho waste WtE power plant project (Phu Tho province) will have a capacity of 18 MW, of which phase 1 (9 MW capacity) will be put into operation in 2020, and phase 2 (9 MW) will be commissioned in the year 2026. This plant is connected to the national electricity system by 110 kV voltage.[57]

According to the Decision 2068/QD-TTg [58] on Approving the Viet Nam's Renewable Energy Development Strategy up to 2030 with an outlook to 2050:

Geothermal energy

Vietnam has more than 250 hot water points widely distributed across the country, including 43 hot spots (> 61 degrees), the highest point of exit with 100 degrees is located in Le Thuy (Quang Binh).[59] Of the total 164 sources of geothermal in the northern midlands and mountains of Vietnam, up to 18 sources with surface temperatures > 53 degrees can allow the application of power generation purposes.[60] The geothermal potential throughout the territory of Vietnam is estimated at about 300 MW.[11]

Tidal energy

In Vietnam, the tidal energy potential is not large, can only reach 4GW capacity in the coastal areas of the Mekong Delta. However, the large potential area that has not been studied is the coastal waters of Quang Ninh - Hai Phong, especially Ha Long Bay and Bai Tu Long, where the tidal range is high (> 4m) and many islands do dikes for water tanks in coastal lakes and bays.[61]

Another report called "Renewable energy on the sea and development orientation in Vietnam"[62] raised the potential of tidal energy: Concentrated in the northern part of the Gulf of Tonkin and the Southeast coastal estuaries. Potential theoretical calculations show that tidal power can reach 10 GW.

Renewable energy support policies

To encourage renewable energy development, the Government has set a price to buy electricity from renewable energy projects (Feed-in tariff-FIT price). Below is a summary of the current support mechanisms for renewable energy types:

Summary of current price support mechanisms for renewable energy types
RE type Technology Price type Electricity price
Small hydroelectricy Power generation Avoided cost is published annually 598-663 VND/kWh (by time, region, season)

302-320 VND/kWh (excess electricity compared to the contract)

2158 VND/kW (capacity price)

Wind power Power generation FIT price 20 years 8.5 US¢/kWh (on shore) and 9.8 US¢/kWh (off shore)
Solar power Power generation FIT price 20 years 7.69 US¢/kWh (floating)

7.09 US¢/kWh (ground)

8.38 US¢/kWh (rooftop)

Biomass energy Cogeneration

Power generation

Avoided cost is published annually 5.8 US¢/kWh (for cogeneration)

7.5551 US¢/kWh (North)

7.3458 US¢/kWh (Central)

7.4846 US¢/kWh (South)

Waste to energy Direct burning

Burning of gases from landfills

FIT price 20 years

FIT price 20 years

10.5 US¢/kWh

7.28 US¢/kWh

According to one study, FITs and reverse auctions appear to be suitable for the next phase of Vietnam’s renewable pricing.[2] Regulations could also be revised to enable private sector investment in upgrading transmission grids. Reforms to administrative procedures, strengthening the bankability of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) by reducing off-take risks, reducing fossil fuel subsidies, and introducing a carbon price are also attractive options. The government could also consider enacting a law on renewable energy to provide a comprehensive and stable legal framework.[2]

Carbon pricing is also expected to boost the renewable energy uptake. Vietnam legalized an emission trading scheme in the revised Law on Environmental Protection 2020. Preparation including piloting is planned for 2022-2027 and the roll out is expected around 2027[63]

See also

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