Opportunities and challenges to electricity development in the Mekong Delta region were discussed at a conference held in Can Tho city on July 17.

Thanks to its favourable terrain and convenient water transport, Mekong Delta provinces have focused on building a raft of thermo-electricity plants to serve the increasing demand of local residents and ensure energy security in the region and its vicinity, according to Nguyen Quoc Viet, Deputy Head of the Steering Committee for the Southwest Region.

However, the construction and operation of thermo-power plants has had great impacts on the environment and local lives, he added.

At the conference, scientists and experts overviewed the blueprint to develop electricity by 2030 in the country and the Mekong Delta region as well as the influences of coal-fuelled power plants on community health while recommending alternative energy sources to protect the environment.

Nguyen Duc Cuong, Director of the Centre for Renewable Energy and Clean Development Mechanism under the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Institute of Energy, said that the Mekong Delta region has a total power capacity of over 2,000 megawatts, currently making up 6 percent of the nation’s power capacity but is expected to increase to 16 percent by 2030.

He added that the region has huge potential to develop renewable energy plants using biomass resources such as rice husk, sugar cane bagasse, wind and sun.

Wind farms with a total capacity of 16 megawatts are being operated in the region; additional turbines will be installed to bring the total capacity to 83 megawatts. Nine other biomass plants with a combined capacity of 30 megawatts are to be constructed in the locality.

According to Tran Dinh Sinh, Vice Director of the Green Innovation and Development Centre (GreenID), air pollution caused by power plants in the Mekong Delta region indirectly leads to 8,000 deaths every year as a result of higher risks of heart strokes, lung cancer and respiratory diseases.

He said that while planning power, industrial and transport development, relevant authority need to evaluate plan impacts on the environment and resident health. He also recommended the Government further invest in clean energy and installing equipment to control emissions.-VNA