RMIT Vietnam NewsSolar Power a promising technology for Ho Chi Minh City

Solar Power a promising technology for Ho Chi Minh City

Monday, December 21, 2015 - 16:04
Associate Professor Bob Baulch is the lead researcher on the project.
Senior Lecturer Dr Le Thai Ha is one of the co-authors of the paper.
A solar home system in Ho Chi Minh City.

On any given day the sun shines for five to eight-and-a-half hours in Ho Chi Minh City, the bustling commercial capital of Vietnam and home to approximately eight million people. 

The country is industrialising rapidly, and as it does it will need to look to the sun and other renewable energy sources to power its growth.

Associate Professor Bob Baulch of the Centre of Commerce and Management believes that there is potential in solar power.

“Solar home systems (SHS) are a promising technology for better-off households in Ho Chi Minh City and other urban areas in Vietnam,” said Baulch, lead researcher of the research study Solar Home Systems in Ho Chi Minh City: A promising technology whose time has not yet come.

“At the moment, subsidised electricity prices, the inability to feed any excess generated into the grid, and high installation costs discourage most households from installing SHS.”

Dr Le Thai Ha, one of the paper’s co-authors, noted that the bulk of Vietnam’s electricity comes from non-renewable sources.

“At the moment most of the country’s electricity comes from hydropower and coal, while solar and other renewable power sources account for less than one per cent of electricity production,” Dr Le said.

“Demand for electricity in Vietnam is growing by more than ten per cent annually.

“And because of increased industrial and residential consumption, these sources are unstable.”

But power cuts are not the only negative result of increased electricity consumption from non-renewable resources.

It also leaves a significant carbon footprint.

“We began this research out of a desire to promote more sustainable urban development in Vietnam, and thereby reduce the carbon footprint from conventional electricity generation by a little,” said Baulch.

Research Assistant, Do Thuy Duong, the second author of the report, explained that the research involved a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods.

“Through interviews we wanted to understand the constraints to the uptake of SHS,” Do said.

“All interviewees identified policy constraints and the high cost of equipment and installation as the two biggest constraints.”

The team also conducted a payback analysis of three types of representative SHS. A payback analysis is the calculation of the number of years required to reach the break even point if one of the three systems were adopted.

“The payback period in Vietnam is long compared to neighbouring countries, partly because of the constraints we uncovered,” Do explained.

But the research team is optimistic. Their policy brief outlines recommendations including raising residential electricity prices and the introduction of net metering which – if adopted – would reduce these constraints and pave the way for SHS in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Vietnam is changing. Reducing our carbon footprint has to start somewhere, and adopting SHS is a step in the right direction,” Do concluded.