Energy is indispensable to economic development and national industrialisation and modernisation but Vietnam is facing with a looming energy shortage that could dramatically hinder its future progress, radio The Voice of Vietnam (VOV) reported.

The Energy Institute under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) warns the total energy needed for trading activities will reach 78.8–83.6 million tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE) by 2020 and 152–175 million TOE by 2030. The 2020 demand is around 2.2–2.4 times higher than current levels.

Vietnam exploits a diverse range of energy sources but most cannot be considered abundant. Operational hydroelectricity plants and plants scheduled for construction between now and 2017 have an estimated annual production capacity of 65–70 billion Kwh.

The coal industry’s plans suggest a production output of less than 72 billion kWh per annum, even between 2025–2030.

Offshore gas sources could fuel electricity production exceeding 100 billion kWh per year as well as 3–5 percent of the gas volume required for other industrial sectors. Crude oil output is estimated at an annual 17–18 million tonnes but is expected to ebb after 2015.

Vietnam’s energy systems rest on the standard three pillars of oil, gas, and coal. These pillars will not be able to meet Vietnam’s burgeoning energy demands alone.

Coal shortages are expected in a magnitude of 5.8 million tonnes by 2015, 25 million by 2016 tonnes, and 66 million tonnes by 2020. This will necessitate compensatory coal imports from 2015 onwards.

Electricity demand could surge by as much as an annual 15–20 percent.

If Vietnam cannot discover new oil fields with large reserves, its oil and gas will essentially run dry by as early as 2025.

Dependence on imported energy will become a major issue over the next 10–15 years.

Experts warn Vietnam’s inefficiency has wasted huge amounts of energy. Only 28–32 percent of the power produced from coal and oil power plants reaches the national grid, 10 percent lower than developed country averages. The 60 percent efficiency of the country’s industrial boilers is also 20 percent lower than global standards.

Vietnam’s industries use 1.5–1.7 times more energy than their counterparts in Thailand and Malaysia.

Energy consumption is growing at the double the rate of Vietnam’s GDP. In developed countries the ratio is less than one.

Obsolete technology, outdated equipment, aging infrastructure, and poor management all contribute to Vietnam’s energy waste and inefficiency.

Energy shortages already force Vietnam’s annual energy imports from China and Laos.

Most other countries get their electricity from coal, oil, and gas, with less than 20 percent created using hydropower. Half of Vietnam’s energy originates in hydropower, meaning the instability of seasonal vacillations has a much more pronounced effect.

The national energy strategy should focus on adjusting energy policies and consumer behaviours, upgrading technology, encouraging business investment, improving pricing and tax information, and ensuring energy is still accessible for the disadvantaged.

The Vietnam Energy Association has asked the Government to finalize its 2011–2020 plans for the energy sector and include a vision towards 2030 so that the industry can be guided by set targets.

A decree encouraging and promoting the development of renewable energy is of the utmost importance. A Renewable Energy Law should be prepared for submission to the National Assembly.

The energy sector needs to expand its exploration of domestic and foreign energy sources and research renewable energy strategies to limit pollution and protect the environment.

Other priorities include keeping energy prices at reasonable levels and increasing competition within the energy market itself.-VNA