Viet Nam in need of new energy

Friday, Jan 18, 2019 08:02

Former US Secretary of State John Kerry. — VNS Photo Linh Anh

Viet Nam should have ample motivation to exploit new and clean energy to ensure energy security and address environmental issues. Former US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at a press conference on the issues. Viet Nam News journalist Nguyen Linh Anh reports.

The seminar today is about energy security in the context of climate change. What do you think about this topic?

Viet Nam is one of the most exposed countries in the world, particularly the Mekong Delta area, to climate change. All of Viet Nam will feel the impact of climate change because of changes in temperature, the availability of water, the impact of storms and droughts. There are many challenges here but Viet Nam also has enormous opportunity because its energy mix is a possibility of hydro, wind, solar and natural gas.

Solar power is now cheaper than coal. Coal is producing a problem for the Vietnamese people in cities and towns, with the air quality, the acidification of the land and sea, fish and agriculture. There is a great opportunity for Viet Nam to build an amazing new grid system to provide electricity for people, which is affordable but clean.

Viet Nam is pursuing industrialisation and modernisation, which means it has to build many factories, emitting gas emissions, causing problems in climate change. Do you think this is a conflict?

No, it doesn’t have to be a conflict. You can provide the power to new industry but the power can be more efficient and clean. There is a great ability, particularly in Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan provinces, where there is good wind and good sun, to provide huge traditional power through solar and wind. And if you combine it with natural gas, when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, you will have the alternative of hydro and natural gas to provide the fuel. Industry can still grow because you have a connected and smart grid. Today’s world of computers, artificial intelligence and technology make it possible to direct that energy wherever and whenever you need it. This is something the modern nations are going to be doing and I think Viet Nam should be a leader in doing this. You have every ability to be able to have one of the best grids in the world very quickly.

Reducing the impact of climate change and switching to clean and renewable energy is the goal of many countries in the pursuit for sustainable development. What can Viet Nam learn from similar countries?

Every country is going to have to find its own best mix because some countries don’t have rivers and hydro power. But every country has a choice to make cleaner energy. Coal is the dirtiest fuel in the world; even when they apply new technology to create a new product named “clean coal”. There is no such thing as “clean coal”.

Today, we need to stop building coal-fired power plants. In the US, we are not building new coal-fired power plants, we are closing them. And instead, we are using natural gas, solar, wind, which we still need to build more. But we don’t have a lot of time, because the smartest scientists in the world who have been studying this issue for 30, 40, 50 years, are all telling us that we have to move faster. We have to make government decisions, private sector decisions that move us to alternative renewable sustainable energy faster. And all of us need to join together and do more research. The research and development could maybe make hydrogen fuel and safer, more standardised fourth generation nuclear power could be available. The will of the people needs to say we want clean energy, they don’t want to breathe bad air because this makes their children sick and affects their learning ability.

In Viet Nam, the Mekong Delta provides literally 10 of millions of people with food. But now the area is facing increasing salinisation along with increasing sea water problems.

I started something called the Lower Mekong Initiative where we are working to try to help prevent this damage. I hate to say this but HCM City today sometimes has worse air than Beijing or New Delhi. There are many people whose lungs are affected by the bad quality of the air. That is not the way for people to live and we need to make better choices in how we provide our energy. We can grow and we can be clean at the same time.

Recently the Vietnamese Government has made notable efforts to pursue sustainable development, such as trying to fulfill the UN sustainable development goals and prioritise renewable energy projects. What do you think about these efforts?

I think the Prime Minister and the Politburo and ministers, I think they understand and they are working to move in this direction. They need some help from outside to bring finance in to help make this an easier path and that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to help provide them with the choices that hopefully will empower them to do what they want to do, and I know they want to do this. The Prime Minister has been very clear to me that they know this is in the best interest of Viet Nam and they want to move in that direction. We’re trying to provide whatever assistance they need or want to help them do this faster. — VNS

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