The View from Vietnam


May 21, 2012

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Vietnam has a habit of doing rather well for itself.

A fact made all the more remarkable given it’s history of colonisation and bloodshed. First by the Chinese (who handed the country back in 938 AD), then by the French in the mid-19th century, who were busy expanding their colonial empire in Southeast Asia.

More recently, there were the devastating effects of the Vietnam War – a battle that ended with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.

It’s this chequered history then that might lead you to think the Vietnamese would be rather sceptical to the idea of international support. And that they might just be a little jaded by thought of future overseas energy intervention.

Only you’d be wrong.

Vietnam remains one of the most welcoming and outwardly optimistic territories within Southeast Asia – both in terms of tourism and in business.

Indeed, as the expansion of their oil and gas energy markets have shown, the Vietnamese are quick to recognise the benefits of enticing international talent. The burgeoning expat community and the perfectly manicured tennis courts close to Hoi Chi Ming City, are a testament to that.

So what then of wind?

Well until recently not much. Only now, following a flurry of announcements that all looks set to change.

In April, the Vietnamese government reported that the country’s first wind farm – a 20-turbine, 30MW initiative in the central province of Binh Thuan’s Tuy – had come online, with plans from the Vietnam Renewable Energies Joint Stock Company for plenty more.

Then late last week Malaysian developer Timar Wind Solar Energy Group announced plans to invest $800m in a large wind scheme in Ninh Thuan – another central Vietnamese province.

And what makes this agreement all the more interesting is not just the scale of the investment but the type of technology involved.

Using magnetic levitation, the Maglev turbine features vertically configured blades, suspended mid air around a hub, thereby reducing operating costs and the need for vast tracts of land. An interesting innovation that will no doubt benefit from such a vast commission.

However, for a country that has seen the demand for installed power capacity increase substantially over the past ten years and that is frequently blighted by power outages, it’s the new capacity potential, as opposed to the technology itself that excites.

Indeed, industry reports suggest that if Vietnam is to keep a pace with increased domestic electricity demand, it needs at least 1,700MW of new capacity has to come online every year in order to meet demand.

That’s no mean feat for any country placing a premium on energy security – let alone one that has continues to see such ambitious economic growth.

Nevertheless, as the appetite for Vietnamese wind energy grows, the international community will watch with considerable interest.

After all, emerging economies provide potential for much-needed manufacturer expansion, while at the same time offering up a valuable test bed for R&D.

As the history books show, time and again the Vietnamese prove to be highly capable, adaptable and resilient. Three core skills that have also proved central to wider wind energy expansion, innovation and growth.

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