To accomplish socio-economic development objectives in Vietnam, building integrated reservoirs, combining hydroelectricity and irrigation is given priority for development. An insight on the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry website.

Vietnam has more than 3,450 river and stream systems of different sizes theoretically capable of generating electricity with a total potential production capacity of 35,000 MW and 300 billion kWh of electricity a year. The northern region accounts for some 60 percent, the central some 27 percent, and the southern 13 percent. However, with feasibility taken into account, the country can utilise about 26,000 MW or 100 billion kWh of electricity a year.

Before 1990, some large- and small-scaled hydropower projects like Hoa Binh (1,920 MW), Thac Ba (120 MW), Da Nhim (160 MW) and Tri An (400 MW) and a number of small and micro hydropower plants were built.

After 1990, according to the Government’s guidelines for the Vietnam Electricity Industry Development Strategy and National Electric Power Development Plan, renewable energy sources (wind, solar, hydro power, etc.) were given investment priority, especially hydropower projects with extra benefits (water supply, flood prevention, drought prevention, etc). Small-scaled hydropower plants were invested to meet growing energy demand in the country. On that basis, the Ministry of Industry and Trade in collaboration with involved ministries, agencies and localities carried out researches on hydropower development in potential rivers and streams.

By now, the country-wide hydropower development planning has been established and approved, thus laying the groundwork for formulating investment projects. According to approved plans, the country now has 815 hydropower projects with a combined capacity of 24,324.3 MW. Of these, 268 projects have been put into operation (14,240.5 MW); 205 projects are construction (6,198.8 MW) and expected to be operated before 2017. The storage capacity for downstream regions is 10.51 billion cubic metres.

On large rivers, 113 cascaded hydropower projects have been approved for construction with a total capacity of 18,006 MW. Most projects have been built. As many as 56 projects have been brought into operation while the rest are expected to be completed and operated by 2017 and 17 projects are being studied. The above hydroelectric plants have supplied electricity, regulated water flows and controlled flooding for downstream areas. Some projects have been adjusted to improve investment efficiency, mitigate environmental and social impacts and fit with new plans and other prioritised projects.

The investment and construction of hydropower projects has importantly ensured energy security and promoted the country’s socioeconomic development towards industrialisation and modernisation. In 2012, hydropower plants accounted for 48.26 percent of production capacity and 43.9 percent of power output. This is a clean renewable energy source generated at a lower cost than other power sources.

The investment, construction and operation of hydropower projects has created many jobs. The formation of hydroelectric reservoirs has also importantly and actively regulated water for livelihood and agriculture, reduced downstream flooding, improved environment, and develop tourism, aquaculture and transportation.

Hydropower reservoirs with a total storage capacity of tens of billions cubic metres of water have played an important role in storing and supplying water in dry seasons and reducing flooding to ensure better livelihood, production and environmental protection for the downstream. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, hydropower reservoirs will account for about 86 percent of total reservoir capacity of the country (56 billion cubic metres versus 65 billion cubic metres in total).

The reservoir system is extremely important to water resources security.

While building hydroelectric plants, many socioeconomic infrastructure works like power grids, roads, schools, clinics and cultural houses in resettlement areas have been built or upgraded to serve quicker socioeconomic and cultural development.

However, the investment and construction of hydroelectric projects have also affected local people. Resettled residents are vulnerable as their living space and farming area are narrowed. These major issues need to be addressed soon. The government is directing relevant ministries and branches to carry out projects to stabilise production and livelihood for resettled people.

To ensure sustainable hydropower development and environmental and social protection, the Prime Minister has directed ministries, branches and localities involved to operate hydropower plants as processes approved, ensure power generation efficiency, and regulate sufficient water sources for the downstream.-VNA