Power cuts will start on Feb. 15 across Vietnam in a bid to cope with the country's electricity crisis, the Ministry of Industry and Trade said.

"Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) would start reducing power supplies from Feb. 15 but would leave it to provincial electricity regulators to decide where and when to cut the power," said the ministry's Science and Technology Department Deputy Director Phuong Hoang Kim.

The demand for electricity was forecast to rise by 18 percent against last year while electricity production would be down by 14 percent.

"This year the country will face a terrible shortage of electricity," Kim said.

The dry season was already taking its toll. EVN had reported that major reservoirs in the north were close to empty and that it had begun releasing water on Feb. 8 to save crops for the second and also the last time this dry season.

Two thirds of the rice crop in the north and north-centre of the nation depended on water from this release, which would last until Feb. 14.

To make matters worse, Kim said, many thermoelectricity projects were behind schedule making it all the more necessary to conserve electricity.

"All other measures, such as increasing power supplies, require more time. They cannot be done within one year," Kim said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has urged the nation to save electricity in the face of such a severe power shortage.

State offices should take the lead by tightening up regulations on electricity use while factories and major power consumers must work out plans to save power by at least 1 percent, Dung said.

This sector was very important given that it consumed 10 percent of sold electricity.

The Prime Minister also required EVN to improve rural power grids to reduce transmission losses from the current 20 percent to 15 percent by the end of this year and 10 percent within the next 4 years./.