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Author: Sinco Saigon Post date: 09.08.2021

Let me tell you the story of Germany's renewable energy.

The reason: most of the policy fixed electricity price (FIT) for Vietnam's renewable energy follows the German model, which is supported by the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GIZ).

Thirty years ago, Germany first introduced the FIT price to promote the sale of renewable electricity to the national grid. Initially, when the share of wind and solar power production in Germany was still below 0.1%, there was concern that renewable electricity increased the risk of unsafety and grid stability. A group of power companies in Germany issued a joint statement to increase pressure on the government, saying that "renewable energy such as solar power, wind power, hydroelectricity cannot exceed 4% of electricity production, even in castle power generation conditions".

Reality proves the opposite. Germany today belongs to the top 5 countries in clean electricity. Wind power fields and the villages is covered with solar panels became symbols of the new Germany. Even tours to clean energy villages are also popular. In 2018, the share of wind and solar power output on the German grid was 26%.

For decades, although there are still opinions in favor of thermal and nuclear power, calling for delay in expanding the power grid, and being careful with clean electricity, the people of this country have unanimously said "yes" to clean electricity. . Their voice is, fortunately, backed by the government with a long-term vision, consistent policies, and operator integrity and transparency.

Vietnam is one of the countries studying the clean energy development model of Germany. But in Vietnam to this day, solar power continues to be a reserve player in the grid team.

Despite achieving a sublimation at the end of last year, solar power is being viewed by many as a cause of grid instability. Not only that, the recent moves and opinions of many people show hesitation about the future of clean electricity.

According to the draft Power Plan VIII being consulted by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, within the next 5 years, the additional construction capacity of coal-fired power plants will be nearly 9,100 MW, while this figure with solar power is only 600 MW. For comparison, in 2020 alone, an additional 8,900 MW of rooftop solar capacity will be connected to the grid. That is, with the speed of rooftop solar installation in 2020, in less than 25 days, we can reach the full solar capacity target in the next 1,800 days.

The plan of the Ministry of Industry and Trade shows that the total electricity output from solar and wind energy sources in 2021 is expected to reach 23.4 billion kWh, accounting for 8.9% of the total electricity output of the whole system. According to a 2014 study by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the grid generation of up to 10% of solar and wind power output is "negligible and has absolutely no effect on power system stability". That is the real experience experienced in Denmark, Ireland, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

I am wondering when I think that solar power is making it difficult to operate the national grid. It is possible that it is only a local difficulty in some places due to the delay in grid investment. The low load situation during the last Lunar New Year, if viewed with positive eyes, is a reminder that it is time for us to have a method of moderating the system and operating the electricity trading market. more flexibility to adapt to rapidly changing source structures.

The fact that we delay or show hesitation with clean electricity including wind power and solar power - two strengths of Vietnam - will be invisible and will indirectly widen the road for electricity that is not clean or erodes the environment like coal power or hydroelectricity.

Ho Ho Hydroelectricity once released floods, leaving 20 dead and 9 missing, a section of the  Rao Trang River more than 25 km has four hydroelectric plants, and there are still people lying somewhere in the riverbed. Thermal power is a large source of waste causing fine dust pollution. People still have to face the peak season of power shortage, high electricity prices... The big problems of Vietnam's energy industry can be ended by developing clean electricity. This is the path that Germany and many other countries have taken so that their people can have clean, safe and abundant electricity at a reasonable price.

Another IEA report highlights that a share of solar and wind power exceeding 30% in a country's electricity grid can be achieved with negligible incremental costs through improved policies, management systems, operations, and better planning.

Research by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) also concludes that it is possible to integrate the proportion of solar and wind power up to 25% into the grid with only technical and management solutions. Investing in more flexible power sources to support the grid is only really necessary when the proportion of clean electricity output on the grid is higher than 25%. In which, investing in battery storage is the last option. Therefore, it is not entirely accurate to say that it is impossible to put a high percentage of solar power on the grid because there is no storage battery.

As a temperate country, the potential of solar power is far behind Vietnam, but Canadians still make efforts to make solar power. Last year, my agency, an education department in the Vancouver, Canada metropolitan area, donated $25,000 to test a rooftop solar power system for a high school. Despite being the warmest place in Canada, the intensity of solar radiation in this area is less than three-quarters of the average radiation of Vietnam.

While the investment rate is high, the power output is low, this system takes 25 years to break even if the electricity is sold to the grid. But we still do. This is a sample of a $50 million plan we're working together to install rooftop solar power for all 48 of the area's schools.

There are three main reasons for the above decision to be born. First, solar power will help achieve the 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 that my agency must comply with. Currently, most of the emissions in buildings come from burning natural gas that is cheaper to run for heating. The emission reduction target will be achieved by converting 50% of the heating system from gas to electricity.

Secondly, in addition to offsetting the extra electricity when switching heating systems, rooftop solar power will also reduce the need to depend on grid electricity, limiting the risk of electricity price increases.

Third, the solar power system at schools is the most practical and intuitive lesson for the next generation about the importance of clean energy and sustainable development. It is an invisible social benefit, more permeable than theoretical lectures or difficult to swallow  slogans  of environmental protection.

With a precious and almost inexhaustible source of solar energy, wind and solar power in Vietnam is not just an economic problem. That is the solution to the problem with three pillars of  sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.

I find that the energy transition cannot be understood in terms of simply changing the source structure. It must be a comprehensive transformation from the source, dispatching system, transmission grid, distribution to consumption. In which, digitizing the entire power system is a vital requirement to optimize operation. Energy transition also cannot be successful without long-term, consistent, transparent and equitable policies.

The lack of strategy, the lack of thoughtful and thoughtful planning that causes the defeat of the battle is an age-old lesson that happens in many fields. Will we learn from experience with the most important market like electricity to open an endless source of clean energy for the country? This again depends on the operator's vision.

Nguyen Dang Anh Thi

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