Vietnam to phase out coal, invest in gas and renewables

Prime minister says government will review plans for new coal power plants, indicating country could shift towards lower emission gas and renewables 

Vietnam is one of the most hazard-prone countries in the world due to its long coast and vast rivers (Pic: Sarah Hoa/Flickr)

Vietnam is one of the most hazard-prone countries in the world due to its long coast and vast rivers (Pic: Sarah Hoa/Flickr)

By Ed King

Vietnam’s prime minister says the country will stop building coal power plants and look to gas and renewables to power its electricity grid.

In a statement on the government website, Nguyen Tan Dung said new energy plans should protect the environment and strictly follow “international commitments on cutting emissions.”

The government would also review the development plans of all coal-fired power plants, said Dung.

The announcement appears to contradict energy plans outlined in 2015, which would see the share of coal in the energy mix rise from 36% to 56% in 2030.EIA_Vietnam_stats_800


Green groups have reacted cautiously to the news. Nguy Thi Khanh from Hanoi-based NGO, Green ID, called on the prime minister to deliver policies to back up his rhetoric.

“If the Prime Minister is serious about moving away from coal, we hope that the government will comprehensively reassess all proposed coal plants,” she said.

“In addition, all existing and new coal plants should be fitted with pollution controls and higher efficiency standards in line with international best practice.”

According to the Global Coal Plant Tracker over 50 coal projects are in pre-planning, consultation or under construction.

Planned coal plants in Vietnam (Pic; Coal Swarm)

Planned coal plants in Vietnam (Pic; Coal Swarm)

Coal imports rose 21% between 2013 and 2014, and a climate plan lodged with the UN late in 2015 offered little clarity in the way of clean energy ambitions.

An analysis published last year by the US Energy Information Administration predicted hydropower use would fall from 33% to 16%, with wind and solar rising fractionally.

For the coal industry this is the latest bad news in a bleak few months for the industry, fresh off the back of a new UN pact to radically slash carbon emissions by mid-century.

Coal demand fell 3% in China last year, according to official statistics, while US coal production was down 13% on 2014 figures.

Last week India’s coal minster Piyush Goyal tweeted that solar was cheaper than coal in some circumstances.

“We are moving rapidly to meeting the clean energy vision of PM Narendra Modi,” he added.

Still, Benjamin Sporton – CEO of industry lobby group World Coal – told Climate Home the carbon-rich energy source would still play a role in Asia’s emerging economies.

“Coal is affordable energy that’s important for development and it just happens to be that it’s coal that provides that affordable energy in most cases,” he said.

“Affordable energy is critical for developing and emerging economies.”

Read more on: Asia | Fossil Fuels | Renewables |