One by one, countries in Southeast Asia are now starting to consider and take action to build electricity using renewable energy. This is done not only because the climate crisis is increasing, but also because there is less and less fossil energy available.
One of them is Vietnam, which is following suit to develop renewable-powered electricity, through the development of hydrogen power plant. Hydrogen itself is a versatile substance with high potential as a driver in the global transition to sustainable energy, as it can be produced in areas with abundant renewable energy sources and transported to energy-hungry areas.
Unlocking Untapped Potential
Vietnam has made significant progress in expanding its renewable energy capacity, especially in solar PV installations, which account for four percent of the country's total energy output. However, there are limitations to the growth potential of solar power due to its erratic energy supply. On the other hand, wind power is a scalable and more stable alternative for Vietnam which has the advantage of average wind speeds of 10m/s in the southern provinces and 3,000 km of coastline for offshore wind power.
The World Bank predicts that Vietnam's offshore wind power potential could reach 500 GW by 2030, and 66 percent of the total new wind power capacity in Southeast Asia by 2030 will come from Vietnam. Despite this potential, high entry costs and a lack of wind power technology manufacturers in Vietnam mean that wind power currently accounts for only one percent of the country's total energy production.
The First One Hydrogen Power Plant in Vietnam
Construction of Vietnam's first and largest green hydrogen plant has begun by TGS Tra Vinh Green Hydrogen Company, a member of The Green Solutions Group, with a total investment of VND8 trillion ($341 million). The project, located in Duyen Hai District, Tra Vinh, covers an area of 21 hectares. The project is valued at US$840 million and will start construction in June 2022, and is expected to be completed in 2023.
The plant will have an initial production capacity of 24,000 tons of hydrogen, 150,000 tons of ammonia and 195,000 tons of oxygen per year, using water electrolysis powered by renewable energy. The initiative was launched eight weeks after TGS (The Green Solutions) reached a preliminary agreement with US engineering firm Black & Veatch to collaborate on hydrogen-related ventures. Black & Veatch, based in Kansas, is also involved in the development of the world's largest hydrogen center to be built by Mitsubishi in Utah.
The project will be able to provide direct employment for 300-500 local residents and will help the province achieve sustainable economic growth and become one of the green energy hubs in the Mekong Delta region and the entire country.
The Difficulty of Letting Go
Vietnam has faced criticism for planning to build coal-fired power plants due to its dependence on energy. Vietnam's dependence on coal as the main energy source will continue in the short and medium term, despite progress in diversifying renewable energy sources.
The country is currently facing electricity supply shortages due to disruptions in coal imports and rising commodity prices due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict as well as disruptions in trade flows caused by the pandemic. To meet the increasing demand for electricity and fertilizer production, Vietnam has shifted from a net exporter of coal to a net importer, with Indonesia and Australia as the main suppliers. Coal imports are also expected to increase significantly over the next few years.
Connecting Commitment and Reality
Despite this, Vietnam has made a commitment at the UN climate conference in Glasgow in November 2021 to become carbon neutral by 2050. At COP26, Vietnam pledged to achieve this goal, joining other countries in the fight against climate change.
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Sinh Nhat Tan stated that Vietnam is promoting the development of chemical industries, including the production of green hydrogen and green ammonia, which have been identified as priority industries for development by the Communist Party and the State.
The development of these technologies is indeed still in the early stages of development and relatively expensive. However, as a regional manufacturing powerhouse, Vietnam aims to increase its power generation to 146,000 MW by 2030, prioritizing renewable energy and reducing reliance on coal, which currently accounts for 30% of national power.
There is still a lot of homework to be done to achieve these commitments. On the other hand, if Vietnam is able to keep its commitments, this will be a tremendous progress for Vietnam in the fight against climate change. It could also be a race for other countries in the region to take the same steps.
Rogers, David. (2022). Vietnam to Invest $840m in Clean Hydrogen Plant. globalconstructionreview.com
Medina, Ayman. (2022). Vietnam to Build First Hydrogen Plant, Coal to Still be Dominant Power Source. aseanbriefing.com
VNA. (2023). Work Starts on Vietnam’s First Green Hydrogen Plant. vietnamnews.vn