HANOI, April 29 (Reuters) - Vietnam, struggling to meet soaring energy demand, plans to buy 3.5 billion kilowatt hour (kWh) from China, up 31 percent from last year, to bridge a shortfall in output, its main utility group said on Tuesday.
Vietnam Electricity (EVN), would pay about $160 million, or 4.5 U.S. cents per kWh for the import, and retail to users at between 5.6 cents to 11 cents per kWh, EVN Vice General Director Nguyen Manh Hung said in an online chat at EVN website (www.tietkiemnangluong.com.vn).
The state-run group which started buying electricity from China in 2004, imported 2.67 billion kWh last year using spare capacity from Chinese power plants in the border province of Yunnan.
“However it still depends on the seller because China also suffers power shortages,” Hung said.
Hung also outlined immediate measures taken by EVN to cope with the power crunch including saving, to a maximum, power for public lighting and household consumption which together accounts for about 40.7 percent of total demand.
Hung said reiterated the group’s plan to add 45 new power plants with a total capacity of 14,589 megawatt by 2010.
“Only a small number of the new power plants will be hydro because we have used up the rivers’ capacity, therefore most of the power plants will be coal-fired or gas-fired,” Hung said.
Meanwhile, the utility has started rotating outages after consumption surged 19 percent in the January-March period, with the southern region, home to the country’s industrial hub jumping 28 percent, up from an average growth of nearly 14 percent in 2007.
Demand is expected to grow at an average of around 17-18 percent this year while output could only expand by about 15 percent from 2007 to 77 billion KWh, EVN has said.
The government, which plans invest in two nuclear power plants with a capacity of 4,000 megawatt by 2020, has also allowed EVN to privatise its power plants and list them on the stock markets to raise money for expansion.
About 10 major foreign investors, including French utility EDF (EDF.PA), U.S. firm AES Corporation (AES.N) and Japanese utility J-Power (9513.T), have shown interest in investing billions of dollar in coal-fired power plants in Vietnam. ($1=15,967 dong) (Reporting by Nguyen Nhat Lam; Editing By Ovais Subhani)