Guest post by Emmeline Bergeon

In Con Dao, 2016 has been successful. Two projects have been implemented in order to supply this off-grid island: VND2 trillion were invested in the first, in order to develop power generation and a transmission grid. Added to this, the current projects of Solar and Wind power plants for a total of VND645 billion. The island is on the way to reach energetic autonomy with cleaner and cheaper power, and being a leader of off-grid power supply. Phu Quy, Bach Long Vi and Cu Lao Cham are on a similar path.

Small islands in Vietnam very often face a lack of security in energy supply. Many communities are not connected to the national grid, which means that they face difficulties accessing a stable and cheap energy. They have to find alternatives which are frequently unsustainable and expensive (particularly the use of individual diesel generators).

In order to understand the challenges and opportunities of renewable energy in off-grid communities in Vietnam, SNV (a non-profit international development organisation) carried out a study in the framework of the USAID Vietnam Clean Energy Program and delivered a report in January 2014. In this report, they explore the situation in 2014 and the completed, current and future development programs. The aim of these programs is to permit the development of these islands, for which energy supply is a key. Among others, six islands areas were studied: Bach Long Vi, Phu Quy, Cu Lao Cham, Con Dao, Ninh Tan hamlet and Con Co. This article aims to examine the present situation on these islands, in order to update the projects mentioned in SNV report.


Introduction of electricity in Cu Lao Cham Island via underground cable in the sea

In 2014, several projects were reported on these islands, but not all of them completed their term. For example on Ninh Tan hamlet the project intended in 2012 to provide clean energy to small islands of Van Ninh district in the near future. Further information is not available for the public for this project. Con Co Island's project led in 2012 to make the new established district island a pilot area for off-grid site study (decision 1936/QD-UBND) seems to have collapsed: according to the SNV final report “the second field visit planned […] has been delayed until further notice”.

However, since 2014, the situation moved forward for some of those islands. In Bach Long Vi, it is estimated a large growth of energy demand between 2014-2020, a project started in January 2016 by Hai Phong Power Company (VND 30 billion invested) to upgrade and enhance a 630kVA generator and rehabilite the diesel power station. It also aims to replace the current power metering system (which does not meet the current demand for electricity: power supply is dependent on three generators generating with capacity of 1.000kVA) by a mixed power source metering system by 2017. According to the company, it will carry out the construction and installation of four wind turbines (capacity of 250 kVA per turbine), solars panels (total capacity of 500 kWp), two diesel generators (total capacity of 2 MVA), and a system of energy storage with power usage regulations (capacity of storage: 7.48MWh). Another VND 148 billion should be invested to achieve this project, and it could be extended forward to provide the whole island with stable power, including areas that can’t be reached by the national grid.


Phu Quy wind plant inaugurated on January 24 2015

Phu Quy Island also saw further development with the implementation of one of the three commercial wind power plants in Vietnam, with a capacity of 6MW. This was part of a project for boosting electricity supply on this island, with an investment of EVN SPC (Electricity of Vietnam, Southern Power Corporation) of VND 10 billion. Also, two more diesel generators, a diesel tank and a diesel pipeline from Phu Quy Port to the power plant were fitted. This has balanced the power prices to equal the national standard.

Very recently, in September 2016, in the touristic island Cu Lao Cham, the 630 households of Tan Hiep commune were connected to the national grid, a project started in January 2016. The electricity is provided by a hybrid system of photovoltaic power (28kW) and diesel (60kW), alongside a project of EAB Company using a hybrid of wind and diesel (1kW). Depending on the success of the project, Vietnam Electricity aims to continue trying to connect the whole island to the national grid, in order to provide cheaper electricity and permit the development of the area.

Last but not least, Con Dao, a tourist island of Ba Ria – Vung Tao province has seen the births of two projects, in March and October 2016, due to a predicted increase of 23.4% in energy demand per year from 2015-2020. With a funding of VND 2 trillion, the first project's aim is to supply the increase in demand using power generation and a transmission grid. This is not the first project of its kind on the island; the Con Dao Wind Power Plant project (capacity of 4MW) and a Solar Power Plant project (capacity of 4MW) are in development, for a total of VND645 billion. In October, cooperation began between Duc Long Gia Group and German group Merica with a pilot project to supply power on the island, and it is expected to be expanded to the whole country if it is successful.

Solar panels in Con Dao Island

Solar panels are checked at a solar power plant on Con Dao Island

Despite the collapse of two projects, four have achieved what they set out to do. Islands in Vietnam could be laboratories to experiment alternatives in power supply. Not all of the projects realized are completely sustainable, as diesel oil is still part of the hybrid systems, and the main material for power generation. But these projects show that Vietnam are becoming more experimental with renewable energy, such as wind or solar. Off-grids territories in Vietnam could be the foundations to lead successful and innovative pilot projects and extend them to the whole country.