EVN faces power shortages

Unusual weather, including early and prolonged drought plus more heat waves, has placed intense pressure on the Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) group to mobilise different resources and ensure a sufficient supply for production and domestic use.

EVN Deputy Director General Dang Hoang An says electricity consumption in the past two months increased dramatically compared to the same period last year. Statistics show that electricity demand rose 36.7 percent in January and fell to 16.7 percent in February due to the traditional Lunar New Year festival.

Mr An says that increasing demand has prompted the elastic coefficient of electricity consumption to exceed the average level and caused difficulties for the energy sector to regulate between supply and demand.

Normally, when the economy grows 6 percent and electricity consumption grows 12 percent, the average elastic coefficient is 2. Last year, the coefficient was 2.4 and rose to 3 in the past two months.

In December 2009, the electricity sector submitted to the government its plan for electricity supply for the whole of 2010 and the dry season. Under the plan, Vietnam is expected to consume 47.2 billion kWh during the six-month dry season. However, at a recent meeting, the sector raised the figure to 48.2 billion, up 2.6 percent.

EVN warns that electricity usage will surge in March as heat waves are expected to strike the whole country. On average, daily consumption is estimated at 260-265 million kWh and even 277million during peak hours.

Mr An says the unusual hot weather caused by the El Nino phenomenon is putting big pressure on the electricity sector. The National Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting Centre says temperatures in this dry season are forecast to increase by 7-8oC from the previous years.

In January alone, water flowing in to the Hoa Binh Hydro-Electric Power Plant’s reservoir – the largest used to regulate flooding in the north – was equal to 77 percent of the volume recorded in the previous years. The figure even fell to 58 percent in February. In addition, last year’s rainfall was also equal to 83 percent of previous years.

Meanwhile, the plant has discharged 3 billion cubic metres of water to save winter-spring rice, causing the reservoir to recede to a record low level. However, the discharged volume is still considered not enough to irrigate crops, which have been thirsty for water for a month, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has asked the electricity sector to continue to open floodgates.

Mr An says EVN is encountering difficulties in purchasing electricity from China which has also suffered from droughts for months. The Yunnan Power Grid Company stopped supplying electricity to Vietnam from March 1-12 (normally 10 million kWh/day) to maintain the two transmission lines from Xinqiao and Hekou to Lao Cai province.

EVN has mobilised all suppliers, using gas turbines or oil and coal as fuel at higher prices, to run at full capacity to ensure a sufficient supply of electricity for production and public consumption. It has asked the Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group to delay regular maintenance for the 1,500MW Ca Mau power plant to late June to reduce pressure in the dry season.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has asked EVN to keep in check electricity consumption, the progress of power projects across the country and the 500KV North-South power transmission line to ensure power supply for consumers. It has also called on businesses and the people to use electricity more efficiently.