Vietnam bucks global trends by boosting coal use

Vietnam has been singled out in a global environmental report for seeing the world’s highest increase in coal-generated electricity as other countries are abandoning the filthy fossil fuel. 

Electricity produced from coal-fired power stations is set to fall globally by around 3 per cent during 2019, according to a study in Carbon Brief.
The global usage rate for coal is about 54 per cent and its electricity is becoming more expensive, according to the research by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air and other groups. 
But Vietnam has seen the largest increase with its coal imports doubling and domestic coal production rising by 10 per cent in the year until October. 
Vietnam only began importing coal in 2015.
Meanwhile, coal power has dropped during 2019 by 14 per cent in the US and 19 per cent across the European Union.
The amount of coal needed to serve Vietnam’s thermopower power station is projected to triple in the next 10 years, meaning that imports would have to continue to rise.
If the study’s forecast for 2019 is correct, it will be only the third year that there has been a decline in coal use since 1985. 
However, the use of coal power in China and Asean continues to rise, despite the environmental consequences of using the dirtiest fossil fuel. 
In 2016, Vietnam imported US$927 million worth of coal, while the figure rose to US$1.5 billion last year. It is expected that coal imports this year will reach US$3 billion.
As a growing industrial and technology hub, Vietnam’s demand for electricity continues to rise. 
The researchers reported: “The record drop [in coal power] raises the prospect of slowing global carbon dioxide emissions growth in 2019. Nevertheless, global coal use and emissions remain far higher than the level required to meet the goals of the Paris [climate] agreement.”
The reduced dependence on coal in Germany, South Korea, the UK and other developed nations is exceeding increases in China, Vietnam and other countries, where coal projects are often funded from China.
“The global average utilisation of coal-fired power plants is on track to hit an all-time low this year, affecting the profitability of both existing and planned capacity,” the report said. “Such a low utilisation rate also implies that the electricity they generate is more expensive, as capital costs are paid for by output during fewer running hours.”
Vietnamese coal barges. Picture credit: Wikimedia