The US electricity sector is in a period of unprecedented change and turmoil. Renewable energy prices are falling and natural gas production continues its extraordinary surge. Coal is headed down the tubes and it’s easy to lose sight of an equally important trend: Demand for electricity is stagnant.
The government has made an error with its decision to once again kick the issue of coal-fired power plants down the political road. Sticking with coal flies in the face of other government policies. Coal as fuel is as unpopular as it is outmoded. Fourth-generation technology demands developing solar and wind power, working with local communities to encourage micro-producers to join the national grid.
Vietnam has a significant challenge ahead: power its remarkable economic growth with less polluting and more affordable clean energy. Because electricity consumption in the commercial and industrial sectors is expected to multiply in the coming years, now is a critical moment to support large energy users in shifting to clean energy.
Recent work by the Stimson Centre, IUCN, the University of California-Berkeley, and The Nature Conservancy shows if Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam take advantage of recent advances in renewable power generation and transmission technologies, they can achieve energy security at significantly lower social, environmental and political risks than focusing on dam building on the Mekong.
In late January 2018, US-based First Solar officially announced its return to Vietnam and the decision to build one more plant to double production capacity. The first plant, covering an area of 100,000 square meters, will become operational in the fourth quarter this year with the annual capacity of 1.2 GW. First Solar’s comeback after seven years of interruption was kicked off by the 40 percent growth rate of the solar panel market.
The 10 members of ASEAN are on track to make solar and other renewables account for 23% of the region’s total primary energy supply by 2025, but governments will need to create better policy and investment frameworks to make it happen, according to IRENA. Policies now in place throughout the region suggest that the share of renewables will likely jump to just below 17% by 2025, from under 10% in 2014.
Southeast Asia has abundant energy resources but is generally slow to diversify its energy mix to include renewable energy sources, according to IRENA. This is due in part to problems accessing adequate financing for such projects. ASEAN countries would need to invest up to US$290 billion in order to secure 23% of primary energy needs from renewable sources by 2025.
Globally, PV capacity will expand more over the next five years than any other renewable-energy technology, KPMG said in its latest report, Great expectations: Deal making in the renewable energy sector. KPMG expects solar to outpace other renewable technologies, due to “improvements in technology and lower costs relative to other types of renewables.”