Vietnam, a potential future global leader in offshore wind-energy generation

Construction News Vietnam
A Vietnamese farmer works in rice fields in Hanoi on June 4, 2020. (Photo by Nhac NGUYEN / AFP)

Vietnam, a potential future global leader in offshore wind-energy generation

Vietnam’s long coastline and strong winds make it a potential future global leader in offshore wind-energy generation.

This comes after a recent analysis by the Danish Energy Agency (DEA) found that offshore wind, if fully harnessed, could generate up to 160GW of power.

The background analysis and resource mapping were conducted in cooperation with the Renewable Energy Authority of Vietnam, reports Channel News Asia.

Vietnam’s electricity generation capacity is approximately 54GW and the government has signalled an intent to more than double that figure — up to 130GW — over the coming decade.

Offshore wind technology could prove to be an enticing and viable way to make that leap.

“Vietnam is blessed with a very long coastline and good wind speeds.

“The technical potential for offshore wind in Vietnam is therefore huge and the technology could make a very significant contribution to decarbonisation of the Vietnamese electricity supply, given the right targets and policy framework,” said Erik Kjær, a DEA senior adviser.

While it is unlikely that so much power would ever be needed, the enormous scale will give the Vietnamese government and investors reason to push ahead with the technology, according to Liming Qiao, the Asia director of the Global Wind Energy Council.

“The sheer size can put Vietnam in a leadership position in Southeast Asia.”

Based on a March report co-authored by renewable energy expert Minh Ha Duong, there is 14.7GW of wind energy capacity, either operating or in the pipeline in Vietnam.

He predicts that 10GW to 12GW of offshore wind power could be online by 2030 in Vietnam, about a third of what has been installed around the world today.

“Vietnam starts behind Japan and Taiwan, but it has the potential to be in the top five in offshore wind capacity by 2030,” Minh, the director of the Clean Energy and Sustainable Development Lab in Hanoi, told CNA.

However, the technology remains in its early adaptation stage, with installed capacity sitting at just 29GW, most of which is located in northern Europe.

In Denmark, the first offshore wind project was commissioned back in 1991, and it has taken decades for the technology to advance and the economics to become feasible.

But the price of building and operating massive turbines in the ocean is rapidly dropping. As more projects come online, economies of scale and the maturation of the industry are expected to help lower costs even further.

It could also help end Vietnam’s dependence on fossil fuels, which remains a major hurdle to it achieving its climate change targets.

For power-hungry Vietnam, coal is for now cheaper, more reliable and more familiar than renewables.

The Vietnamese government, however, has made clear its intention to take a greener future path. It released a document in February, highlighting an intended shift towards renewables up to a proportion of 20 per cent by 2030.

It is already exceeding the wind projects needed to meet 2025 targets. But there are calls for greater ambition.

It means that new investments in renewable energy infrastructure, which is projected to be hampered in many parts of the world as economies fall into recession, could remain viable in the near term in Vietnam, if national infrastructure can handle the new inputs.

DEA notes that a full-fledged offshore power industry will only thrive with “robust long-term policies and targets”, while specialised infrastructure like ports, vessels and a trained workforce would be required.