Development of renewable energy in Vietnam

Reduce the pressure on the national electricity system with technology solutions

18:13 | 15/03/2019 Energy

Responding to the policy of Vietnamese Government on encouraging the development of clean energy and renewable energy (RE), over the past time, many foreign enterprises, in which ABB is a typical example, have actively participated in different forms like consultancy, policy recommendations, supply of solutions and technology as well as equipment manufacturing, etc. In order to diversify solutions and promote the development of RE, especially wind and solar power in the coming time, Vietnam Economic News had an interview with the Country Managing Director of ABB in Vietnam - Dr. Brian David Hull on this topic.

As a corporation that has operated in Vietnam for 25 years and partnered with the development of Vietnam’s power industry, can you explain why Vietnam needs to promote the development of RE, especially solar and wind power?

I think there are many reasons why Vietnam needs to invest in developing renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. First of all, it is due to Vietnam's commitments in preventing climate change, in other words, it’s Vietnam's mandate to join hands with the world to cope with climate change.

The second reason is due to the strong development of the Vietnamese economy, leading to 10% increase annually in the demand for electricity of households and industries. Vietnam can hardly meet this demand if the electricity is only produced in conventional methods using coal and gas. These kinds of projects require huge investments. And sometimes, foreign investors also do not want to invest in such projects because they are concerned that applying old technology will go hand in hand with environmental issues. Therefore, I think switching to developing renewable energy sources like wind or solar power will help Vietnam fulfill its international obligations while meeting the growing demand for electricity.

reduce the pressure on the national electricity system with technology solutions
Dr. Brian David Hull

It is known that ABB was selected as the main supplier for more than 20 solar power projects (up to more than 2GW) with diverse scales in Vietnam in 2018. So what is the reason why ABB is trusted and selected by partners? What make ABB’s products and solutions stand out?

I think renewable energy is a new field for Vietnam. It’s necessary to find a reliable partner when you try yourself in a new field.

With ABB, renewable energy is no longer new concept. Over the years, we have deployed numerous solar power projects in regional countries like Thailand, India, and many other parts of the world. It is good for you to join a new field with the companion of reliable and experienced partners.

Moreover, we have had more than 25 years of close cooperation with electricity industry in Vietnam. In addition, we are a global original equipment manufacturer (OEM) with manufacturing factories in Vietnam. We produce transformers in Hanoi, Medium Voltage Switchgear and compact substations in Bac Ninh to serve customers in over 60 countries around the world. This builds the trust in our customers since they acknowledge the technology and equipment they are using are manufactured in Vietnam based on international standards. We understand the needs of the Vietnamese market.

Last but not least, in my opinion, investing in renewable energy sources like wind and solar is not a short-term process but needs to endure for many years. We have a team of more than 50 engineers always willing to provide maintenance services to assure investors that investing in ABB, their products will operate efficiently in long term.

In the current RE picture in Vietnam, there is a big gap between wind and solar power. Can you share your thoughts on this issue?

As far as I know, the price policy that the Government of Vietnam has applied to wind power projects is less attractive to investors than one applied to solar power projects. At the end of 2018, the Government revised this policy and I think in 2019 and the following years, the investment in wind power in Vietnam will increase. However, investors always want to get the maximum profit out of the projects, hence, up to the change in policy they chose solar power projects with higher returns than wind power.

reduce the pressure on the national electricity system with technology solutions
ABB supplied inverters, weather stations and web based remote monitoring system for Dinsen solar project in Long An, one of the largest rooftop projects (1 MWP) in Vietnam

According to actual research results, the potential of wind power in Vietnam is also high. Many people believe that the current problem lying in the huge investment costs of equipment and technology. What do you think about this?

I think Vietnam has great potential to develop wind power. In a study by the World Bank, I learned that Vietnam has the potential to develop wind power with a total capacity of up to 309 GW (gigawatt). ABB has provided technology for many major wind power developers in the world like Vestas. Wind turbines using our technology are available worldwide. Therefore, I think technology is not a big problem for wind power developers in Vietnam. I believe Vietnamese businesses will overcome technological challenges. Regarding investment costs, ABB has worked with a Vietnamese startup Indefol in the field of wind power and solar power. They used our technology and learned from our experiences, and I believe they will incorporate our technology to develop local solutions in the future. This will help them solve the cost issue and be highly competitive in the market.

As a leading manufacturer and provider of renewable energy equipment, what solution ABB has provided to contribute to the development of RE, especially wind power in Vietnam in the future. Do you have any recommendation to the Government and Vietnamese businesses in wind power sector?

I always love technology questions because ABB is a technology provider. And I think there are always creative solutions. The nature of renewable energy is intermittent, which poses pressure on the national grid. ABB can provide technical solutions to solve this problem, such as battery storage and energy storage systems. Operators need a combination of control systems to monitor the status of RE resources and ABB wants to offer those solutions to Vietnam. Recently, the Government of Vietnam announced higher price policy would be applied to solar power development projects using battery storage solutions. I think the Government of Vietnam can also apply this policy to wind power projects. That will help investment in technology become more sustainable and effective. Another issue to be taken into consideration is that in Vietnam, there are many islands and remote areas. Microgrid is the solution for these areas. Wind turbines, solar power and backup power generators will provide them a reliable power supply.

Mai Huong