Vietnam’s extreme heatwave puts power grid under pressure

Power line and flag of Vietnam. Energy crisis. Concept of global energy crisis. Decreased electricity generation. Graph arrow is down. Increase in electricity consumption

Vietnam’s biggest city, Ho Chi Minh, has begun implementing measures to conserve energy in response to an unprecedented heatwave threatening the national power grid. 

As Bloomberg reports, this power shortage underscores the inherent risks of significant dependence on hydropower, which forms almost a third of Vietnam’s energy generation.

Heatwave hits record temps

Last weekend, Vietnam experienced its highest recorded temperature, reaching a scorching 44.2°C, instigating warnings of power deficits. 

Other Asian nations also felt the heat’s intense grip. Laos likely shattered previous records, while the Philippines was forced to reduce classroom hours due to the heat index hitting the perilous ‘danger’ zone – a warning sign of lethal heat and humidity combinations. 

These scorching temperatures are largely attributed to the emergent El Nino weather pattern, a phenomenon that traditionally ushers in hotter and drier conditions to the region. This heatwave is an added burden to the many countries still reeling from the knock-on effects of last year’s energy price surge, rendering them more prone to demand spikes.

Vietnam’s biggest city under threat

In a bid to combat the power crisis, Ho Chi Minh City has issued directives to factories, shopping malls, and educational institutions to reduce their energy consumption. The strategies include turning off every second elevator and hallway lights. On a larger scale, the city is minimizing street lighting and encouraging citizens to adopt less heat-trapping attire.

Vietnam Electricity Group (EVN), the state-owned utility, earlier this week issued an urgent call to municipal authorities to decrease usage by between 5% to 10%. This followed stark warnings about the country’s major reservoirs nearing their lowest levels in a century. This situation highlights the country’s vulnerability to droughts due to its substantial reliance on hydroelectric power.

Turning to coal to make up power deficit

EVN has also earlier appealed to local coal mining companies Vinacomin and Dong Bac Corporation. EVN has asked them to prioritize coal supplies to power plants for the second quarter of this year, even if it means lower supplies for other sectors. Furthermore, to alleviate the burden on the power generation industry, EVN has urged mining companies to reduce coal prices.

This strategic move is in response to a predicted electricity shortage this summer, particularly in Vietnam’s northern regions, due to strained hydropower and thermal power resources. The latter faces a deficit of up to 1.3 million tons of coal supplies, primarily attributed to depleted inventories, which threatens power generation capacities during the first half of this year, as EVN has outlined.

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