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A Bright Outlook For Solar Power In Vietnam

With energy demand in Vietnam projected to increase by more than 10 percent annually in the next five years, and required power capacity to double, the Vietnamese government is moving quickly to diversify its energy mix, including plans to generate more power from renewable sources.

Along with wind power, the solar industry is expected to be major contributor to the country’s renewable energy capacity in the near future, and Paul English, global sales leader, GE Power, shares more about Vietnam’s solar sector, and its vast potential.

GE REPORTS ASEAN(GER ASEAN): Paul, as local and international investors, are very excited about the implementation of solar energy projects in Vietnam, what do you think about the opportunities for technology and solar energy equipment suppliers in the Vietnamese market today?

PAUL ENGLISH(PE): Based on its favourable geographical conditions, Vietnam has high potential for solar energy production, with 1,600-2,700 sunlight hours per year and an average direct normal irradiance of 4-5 kWh per sqm per day.

Vietnam also has well-developed grid infrastructure, government incentives, as seen in recent Decision No. 11 on project development, and a standardized power purchase agreement (PPA) for solar power projects, which will all help boost solar growth to meet the country’s energy demand. And in the context of the world joining hands to address climate change, renewables can be a solution to decarbonization and security of supply at times of high demand, making now the right time for solar developers and suppliers to seize the opportunities.

GER ASEAN: What’s the role of equipment and technology in appraising the feasibility of solar energy projects?

PE: Technological innovation is the key to unlocking solar potential. There have been huge technological leaps forward within the utility-scale space in recent years, entailing the whole spectrum of system components, from photovoltaic (PV) modules (materials and cell efficiencies), solar inverters (efficiency, power, and voltage ratings), and the electrical balance of system optimization, to the stability of grid connection, with game-changing impacts on the levelised cost of electricity (LCoE), helping achieve an 85 percent fall in the period between 2009 and 2016.

GER ASEAN: What can you say about the contribution of GE’s technology and products in the operation of projects in Vietnam? What are their advantages and how have they been implemented in specific projects?

PE: At GE, we try to push the boundary of innovation to deliver sustainability to customers. We were the first company to bring a 1,500-volt solar inverter solution to the market, which can reduce system costs by up to 3 percent and save up to 15 percent on operating expenses, embodying significant savings that go towards making solar energy farms far more competitive and profitable compared to the existing 1,000-volt peers. Building on the sizeable experience of shipping more than 2 GW of solar inverters to various destinations across the world, it enables a simplified and more efficient solar farm infrastructure layout while reducing the investment requirements for construction works.

GER ASEAN: What do you think about the competition between European, U.S., and Chinese solar solutions?

PE: Each country and each solar project have varied agendas depending on many factors: grid infrastructure, land availability, cost of finance, level of solar radiation, and access to the talent pool, etc. The key to success is to drive down the LCoE and enable solar to become a viable energy source.

There are areas where solar developers, such as those in Asia-Pacific, may benefit from the technological advances early adopters have made. There are areas also where premium engineering and system integration capabilities are needed to ensure the success of the project.

GER ASEAN: What are your specific development plans in Vietnam this year?

PE: GE is taking the responsibility to integrate every single piece of asset into an optimized system so that customers can benefit from reduced project complexity and risks and increased system reliability and availability. Technology transfer, also called the solar power island package, consists of a suite of key solar technologies, including PV panels, 1,500-volt inverter skids, substations, battery storage systems, and digital software offerings.

GE provides a full turnkey capability to local civil installation or full engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) companies to develop utility-scale solar farms. We bring both the finance and the technological know-how to the region, enabling them to benefit from the enhanced bankability of PPAs and technological advances that early adopters of solar have made.

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