Vietnam faces acute power shortages as rivers fall

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Vietnam may face steep power shortages going into 2011, Electricity of Vietnam (EVN), the nation's sole power distributor, said, attributing the expected shortfalls to drought conditions.

Water levels in major rivers are projected to be much lower than usual, company officials announced at a recent meeting.

Despite recent floods, water levels in Da, Se San, and Dong Nai rivers are still low at present.

Power plant reservoirs are 10- 30 meters lower than they were in previous years, Duong Quang Thanh, deputy general director of EVN told a meeting held by the Ministry of Industry and Trade in HCMC on December 6.

"If droughts continue, water levels at hydropower plant reservoirs will be 35 percent lower than average," Thanh said.

He added that the shortages will translate to a shortage of 842 million to 1.4 billion kWh during next year's dry season, which starts in January and ends in June.

"If the water levels decrease by 10 percent, the nation will lack 400 million KWh of power in the first six months of next year," Thanh said.

Tran Khiem Tuan, deputy general director of the HCMC Power Corporation, said prolonged droughts could lead to even more blackouts next year.

Vietnam's power demand is expected to reach 117.3 billion kWh in 2011, up 16.3 percent from this year, according to Thanh.

Currently, the country's electricity supply mainly depends on hydro- and thermopower plants.

However, experts say that the development of renewable energy, including wind and solar power, is a must for the country's growth, given that its rivers have been fully tapped and the country has a limited supply of thermo-power.

Vietnam has a 3,200 kilometer coastline and is considered to be the best location for massive wind power production in Southeast Asia.

A recent survey conducted by the World Bank found that Vietnam could produce 513,360 MW annually from wind alone. That is approximately 200 times the output of the Son La Hydroelectric Plant, which is Southeast Asia's largest power plant and located in northern Vietnam, and 10 times the entire national capacity forecast for 2020.

The only wind power plant in Vietnam is located in the central province of Binh Thuan. The plant has a capacity of 30 megawatts.

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