In this webinar, Mr Cuong Le, Dr Nguyen Dinh, and Mr Phat Nguyen provided initial insights into Vietnam’s National Power Development Plan 8 (PDP8) and National Energy Master Plan (NEMP) for 2021-2030, with a vision for 2050. They also discussed potential opportunities and challenges for all stakeholders, as well as the plans’ implications for Vietnam’s energy security and energy transition.
VIETNAM STUDIES PROGRAMME WEBINAR
Tuesday, 5 September 2023 — ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute organised a webinar titled “Vietnam’s Energy Transition: Opportunities and Challenges”, presented by Mr Le Viet Cuong, Deputy Director General at the Institute of Energy under Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, Dr Nguyen Dinh, a Principal at Offshore Wind Consultants (OWC) under ABL Group, and Mr Phat Nguyen, Legal Manager of Asian Clean Capital Vietnam.
Mr Cuong began the discussion by providing the context behind the release of PDP8 and NEMP. He noted that energy security is a high priority for Vietnam. The topic is also featured prominently in Vietnam’s foreign relations, given the country’s strategic location and open economy. Energy transition offers long-term opportunities for economic restructuring, particularly within the power sector. However, as a developing country, Vietnam faces significant challenges in balancing its short-term goals and long-term energy development objectives. Another challenge for Vietnam is the slow pace of legal reform vis-à-vis the energy transition process. Nevertheless, the government and relevant agencies are working to address this issue.
Mr Cuong said that PDP8 and NEMP are important instruments for both central and local authorities to implement short-term and long-term energy investment projects. They also help to inform and attract investors, while fostering research and development in the energy and power sectors. Furthermore, these plans support the formulation of policy and legal frameworks that underpin these two sectors.
According to Mr Cuong, PDP8 distinguishes itself from previous iterations in several ways. It reflects Vietnam’s international commitments on climate change; charts a clearer roadmap for power sector reforms; specifies the role of different stakeholders in the implementation process; details the utilisation of energy technologies; and adopts an interdisciplinary approach.
The second speaker, Dr Nguyen, discussed renewable energy potentials in Southeast Asia, challenges for Vietnam’s energy transition, and the experiences of other countries, with a focus on offshore wind energy. Dr Nguyen highlighted the critical need for both onshore and offshore energy solutions in Southeast Asia, given the limited land availability and the surging energy demand due to high population density. Vietnam, in particular, stands out for its high potential in both offshore wind and wave energy, in addition to its considerable solar potential. Drawing from the experiences of the United States, the United Kingdom, India, and China, Dr Nguyen showed how wind and solar power complement each other to provide steady output. He therefore stressed the need for energy interconnection among ASEAN countries to harness these renewable sources effectively.
Dr Nguyen elaborated on the five stages of offshore wind energy project development and their respective timelines. These include development and consenting (4 to 5 years), component manufacturing (1 to 2 years), installation (1.5 to 2.5 years), operations/maintenance (over 20 years), and decommissioning (1 to 2 years). Dr Nguyen noted that each of these stages carries its set of risks, underscoring the need for thorough advance planning.
When it comes to project planning, Dr Nguyen advocated for an integrated approach, which entails national planning, marine spatial planning, and other considerations. To illustrate this point, he drew upon the experiences of Ireland and Germany, which show the advantages of a well-coordinated planning framework. Dr Nguyen also discussed the need to balance energy supply (generation) and demand (consumption). Finally, he stressed the importance of research and training in supply chain and policy development, citing the example of the Ireland National Centre for Energy & Marine. He also shared that his firm, OWC, has actively participated in research and training collaboration with the School of Electrical Engineering and Electronic Engineering at Hanoi University of Science and Technology.
The last speaker, Mr Phat Nguyen, addressed the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for Vietnam following the release of PDP8. He drew parallels between the release of PDP8 and the release of PDP4 in 1996, when Vietnam had opened up its economy and become attractive to foreign investors because of its growth potential. In the present context, PDP8’s vision aligns with the current global trend of sustainable investment. Thus, Vietnam is once again presented with a window of opportunity to attract substantial foreign investment, particularly from development partners such as the European Union, the United States, China, Japan, and South Korea.
However, Mr Phat pointed out that investors are concerned that the implementation of PDP8 would be hindered by the mindset of “rather do nothing” at both central and provincial levels. This refers to government officials’ risk-averse attitude in implementing investment projects for fear of wrongdoing. The same concern has been raised regarding Vietnam’s implementation of the Just Energy Transition Partnership deal.
Referencing PDP4, Mr Phat reminded the audience that in 1996, Vietnam had cultivated a dynamic investment environment within the energy sector. He expressed hope that Vietnam could replicate this past success or otherwise, the flow of capital could divert to other countries. The Philippines, which has actively courted foreign investors, is a notable contender.
In the Q&A session, the three speakers answered the audience’s questions on the prospect of Vietnam’s offshore wind power sector, the future of thermal power and hydrogen in Vietnam’s energy development, the role of oil and gas and state-owned companies, potential funding sources for energy transition in Vietnam, and the lessons that Vietnam can learn from other countries’ energy transition process.