In the country’s main hydroelectric dams, the water has dropped to an alarming level, so power plants cannot guarantee their full operation. Companies in the manufacturing sector are in trouble, but so are fishermen and farmers. The government presented an energy development plan, but many doubts remain about its feasibility.
Hanoi () – After last month’s heat waves, Vietnam is now suffering from a severe drought that is causing power cuts in homes and businesses. Due to water shortages, two of the three largest hydroelectric power stations in the country (Son La and Lai Chau, two northwestern provinces) have stopped working almost completely, and the rains of the past two days have been of little avail. At the moment, the current levels of the two reservoirs are sufficient to generate electricity for a maximum of 50 and 90 hours. At the Thac Ba power station in Yen Bai province, 160 km north of Hanoi, the reservoir water has dropped to its lowest level in 20 years.
To reduce energy consumption and avoid overloading the national electricity grid, local authorities had reduced the hours of operation of public lighting in the main cities.
But in any case, at the beginning of the month, the Son La reservoir registered water levels between 30 and 40 meters below that necessary for the operation of the plant. For their part, six engineers have been working 24 hours a day to inspect the turbines every hour or every 30 minutes to ensure their correct operation if necessary. “It is the first time that both the Son La and Lai Chau hydropower stations are running below the limit required for full operation,” Khuong The Anh, director of the Son La Hydropower Company, told a local newspaper. According to him, in 2022, the monsoon season ended early, causing a decrease in water storage in reservoirs. As a result, in the first months of 2023, the influx of water resources was only 51% compared to the same period of the previous year.
The difficulties caused by the drought not only affect companies in the manufacturing sector that need electricity to continue producing. Fishermen, farmers and herders also expressed concern: “Normally I can earn up to three million dong (116 euros) a month fishing in the lake, but now there is nothing,” said Phuong, 42. His buffalo also suffer because they can’t cool off in the shallow water, he added. “We use water from a nearby well for our rice paddy, but this year it has dried up,” he added. “If things continue like this, I’m afraid we won’t have water for our daily lives.”
According to the PDP 8 plan adopted by the government for the development of clean energy, by 2030 at least 50% of electricity must come from renewable sources (wind, hydroelectric or solar power plants) and 25% from natural gas. The goal is to drastically reduce dependence on coal-fired power plants, the construction of which will be prohibited from 2030 and the use of which will be completely prohibited from 2050.
Experts have raised some doubts: The plan requires $135 billion in financing to build new power plants and modernize the power grid over the next seven years, and it will mean, at least in the short term, an increase in household bills. In addition, the Communist Party of Vietnam has detained at least five environmental activists in the past two years. For this reason, some members of the international community have criticized the signing of agreements for the country’s energy transition. In July of last year, for example, the Just Energy Transition Partnership was signed with the G7 countries, with the goal of achieving zero emissions by 2050.