Solar power - Exploitation in accordance with Potential

On 21st and 22nd November, 2017 Ministry of Science and Technology cooperation of international partners  organized a conference on "Technology and finance solutions for developing Vietnam solar energy" to support businesses and investors of solar projects in Vietnam to easily access efficiency new technologies.

*Overview of the conference. Photo:VCIC

From practical needs and macro vision

Solar energy has been identified as one of the most abundant sources of energy in Vietnam, and the efficient and sustainable exploitation and deployment of this environmentally friendly energy source have been a strategic concern of Vietnam and other countries in the world as well.

Decision No. 2068/QD-TTg dated November 25, 2015 of the Prime Minister approving the development strategy of renewable energy of Vietnam by 2030 with a vision to 2050 clearly states the encouragment of developing solar power projects using new, advanced, safe and efficient technologies.

Following that, the Government issued policies and directives on encouraging the development of renewable energy, especially solar power. One of them is  Decision No. 11/2017/QĐ-TTg dated 11 April, 2017 of Prime Minister on mechanism for encouragement of development of solar power in Vietnam.

Recent years have witnessed numerous breakthroughs in technology for on-grid connected solar power plants. Notably, the successful application of nanotechnology in manufacturing energy-absorbing panels has significantly increased the efficiency and sustainability of solar power investment projects in the world. The new panels are environmentally safer with their lifespan increasing from 12 years to 20 years, electricity output increasing by 30%, and investment rate decreasing by 40% in comparison with the old technology of 2010. However, at present, Vietnam's solar power projects are bombarded by different technologies, many of which are low efficiency, pollution-causing and potentially risky for investors.

Technology and finance solutions are available

Although there have been already hundreds of solar projects in Vietnam, this field is still very potential. According to the estimate of Ministry of Industry and Trade, the growth rate of electricity demand in Vietnam is 9.8% per year in the period 2016-2020 and 8.6% per year in the period 2021-2025.

Therefore, in the two days of 21 - 22 November, Ministry of Science and Technology with the cooperation of international partners  organized a conference on "Technology and finance solutions for developing Vietnam solar energy" to support businesses and investors of solar projects in Vietnam to easily access efficiency new technologies. The conference also introduced to investors some of the world’s 10 leading corporations in solar power technology then the investors would pilot about 10 projects.

*Panelists discussed on technological and financial access. Photo: VCIC

Conference was participated by speakers who are leading industry experts such as: Mr. Luu Tung Giang – Deputy General Director of Electricity and Renewable Energy Department, Ministry of Industry and Trade; Mr. Pham Trong Thuc - Former Director of Department of New and Renewable Energy, Ministry of Industry and Trade; Ms. Dinh Thi Quynh Van – General Director of PwC Vietnam; Mr. Ernst Jan Kruis - General Director of Solveigh, Nertherlands; Mr. Joost Samson – Voltiq CEO and representatives from the banking  and legal consulting sectors.

At the conference, Mr. Pham Duc Nghiem - Deputy Head of General Department – NATEC cum VCIC PMU Director, Ministry of Science and Technology said that Vietnam now had more than 700 hydropower projects, of which about one-third were not really effective due to design faults, outdated technology or lack of water for electricity generation in dry season, lengthening capital recovery period.

Therefore, to solve this problem, combining the development of solar power projects with solar panels placed on the surface of hydroelectric reservoirs is preferred. This method is becoming increasingly favorable in countries such as Japan, USA, and Australia thanks to its low investment cost and high effectiveness.

On Mr. Nghiem’s analysis, it averagely took 2.5M USD of setting up of a 1MW hydro power plant, while it took only half of that for solar power plant. Especially, if the solar power is developed on existing hydroelectricity plant, the investment is only about $700,000/MW. Seeing the potentials of this new generation of solar power technology introduced by VCIC PMU, the leaders of the People's Committee of  Son La Province have directed to buid specific plans for new generation solar energy while adjusting the province’s energy development general plan. At the same time, the Department of Science and Technology of Son La province  was appointed to directly coordinate with the missions to research and investigate more about the application in the province.

In addition to solving the national energy problem, the conference’s delegates  discussed environmental issues.

“Old-fashioned solar cells are very harmful to the environment as the energy panels and batteries coated with silver nitrate and mercury are extremely poisonous. The technology that we are applying is a new solution using silicon and nano carbon made into a film that does not pollute the environment and can be easily recycled” Mr.Nghiem explained.

The new technology also takes lower investment costs than old technology by applying advancements and saving the construction area. "The application of old technology need 1.8 hectares per MW while those of new technology need only 1 hectare because more photovoltaic cells per square meter is used, increasing the absorption capacity and reducing the construction area." Mr.Nghiem said.

*Focus group discussion among Vietnam project developers, international investors, and EPC contractors. Photo: VCIC

In addition, panelists have discussed on specific sessions to find out international technology and finace solutions to successfully develop solar energy projects, including:  The process of developing a solar project in Vietnam; Issues arising during the project preparation and implementation; Steps for preparing a solar project in Vietnam and some sources for fund raising ; Advantages and difficulties in fundraising for the project and some recommended approaches.

Following the panels, 10 focus group discussions among Vietnam project developers, international investors, and EPC contractors have been held to create opportunities for further cooperation and investment.