The Ministry of Industry and Trade will issue a circular next year regulating energy consumption ceilings for key industries in a move to prevent them from using energy-guzzling machines and equipment, the Saigon Times Daily reported.

The circular will set criteria for energy consumption of steel, paper and pulp, plastics, food and beverages industries, Trinh Quoc Vu, Head of the ministry’s Sciences, Technology and Energy Saving Department, was quoted as saying.

Vu told the Daily on the sidelines of a conference on the legal framework and policies for effective energy use in Ho Chi Minh City last week that the ministry will ask the Government for approval to apply the strict energy consumption criteria.

Manufacturers will be heavily fined or forced to suspend production if they fail to meet the criteria. Vu said such criteria are deemed as technical barriers to stop imports of outdated machines and equipment as well as machinery production using old technology.

In Vietnam, annual energy consumption grew 11 percent in 2005-2010 but has soared more than 17 percent in recent years due to surging demand in the country, Vu said.

A study by the World Bank revealed that energy consumption in Vietnam will continue high growth in the years to come.

Vu noted high electricity consumption will lead to an imbalance between supply and demand in the future and that after 2016, the country will likely have to import coal and gas to quench the domestic thirst for energy.

Energy experts said steel industry is now the biggest energy taker, accounting for 5.26 percent of the total electricity consumption every year in the country.

The country now has 65 steel and iron mills with combined annual output of 100,000 tonnes. Although those facilities currently run at only half of their designed capacity, they consume 3.5 billion kWh of electricity every year.

Experts attributed huge electricity consumption of the steel industry to the still-widespread use of old furnaces.-VNA