In an interview with TheLEADER, Eric Sidgwick said replacing fossil energy with green energy sources is an inevitable trend and Vietnam is not an exception.
However, the process of developing green energy requires high costs, advanced technology and notably management experience from other countries and international organizations.
"The point is how can Vietnam manage and accelerate the transition from using fossil fuels to more environmentally friendly energy sources," said Eric Sidgwick.
To achieve both economic growth and environmental protection is the mutual goal of many countries. However, the pursuit of robust growth in short term may culminate in environmental damage; therefore, can it be considered a paradox? And what should Vietnam do to achieve both simultaneously?
Eric Sidgwick: I don’t think that is a paradox. I think that there are some costs for economic growth. I think the point here is can Vietnam continue to develop at a high rate of growth and protect the environment at the same time?
So my answer to that is yes. That would happen. But it would not happen automatically. If Vietnam pursues the kind of growth that it has been pursuing so far, then the goal is not likely to happen.
What I say doesn’t mean that the growth Vietnam has been achieving is bad, but, in fact, good growth. But the module of the growth needs to change towards using more environmentally friendly production factors to achieve greater efficiency.
An important aspect related to the environment is climate change, partly due to the over exploitation and use of fossil fuels. In Vietnam, energy demand is continuing to increase due to production growth, so energy supplies also need to increase.
So renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power need to be developed to replace fossil fuel sources, particularly coal.
The overuse of coal will cause tremendous costs not only to the economy but also to people and social welfare, exacerbating the public debt burden not only for Vietnam but also for the region.
Renewable energy development, therefore, offers great benefits to the socio-economic development process, helping to create employment opportunities in various sectors.
So Vietnam has to adjust to the required changes and should be able to continue high rate of economic growth with much more environmental friendly growth patterns.
As you said, this transition can not happen in a day. What are the difficulties and how are international organizations, especially the Asian Development Bank, assisting to promote this process in Vietnam?
Eric Sidgwick: The development and promotion of the use of alternative energy sources is inevitable, but the process in Vietnam is facing many difficulties such as high costs, lack of advanced technology notably the capacity of managing and increasing the competitiveness in the supply phase.
In the energy sector, the Asian Development Bank has been supporting Vietnam in different parts of the energy agenda from generating the energy, transmiting the energy to distributing the energy. So we have been involved in many areas.
The energy sector, especially those related to climate change, is one of the top priorities of the Asian Development Bank. Along with many other banks and organizations, we have also invested more than US$60 million in anti-climate change activities.
In Vietnam, we have two objectives: to provide financial support and policy advice to the Government of Vietnam at various levels.
ADB's role in Vietnam is to provide not only financial support but also support for knowledge and experience to build policy frameworks and offer experience from other countries. For example, in the power sector, we support not only power generation but also power transmission and distribution.
In addition, we also discuss how to advise the government ways to encourage private sector to participate in power generation and to set price for renewable energy. This is a potential area for the private sector and their participation not only brings financial resources but also expertise and technology to help reduce costs and increase productivity.
Another area we are working on is the cooperation in energy sector in the Mekong sub-region. ADB and the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) are working together to establish a competitive electricity market in the region with a view to sustainably develop energy resources, maintain energy security and improve the access of inhabitants to affordable energy sources.
What do you think about the commitment of the Government and people of Vietnam to promote the development of green energy sources towards sustainable growth?
Eric Sidgwick: The issue of Power Development Plan VII (known as PDP 7) of the Prime Minister in 2016 is considered a full commitment of the Government of Vietnam to this transition.
I believe the Party and Government of Vietnam do fully realize the potential affection of climate change and are committed on addressing this issue.
The issue for Vietnam is not for much ‘what to do’ but ‘how’, how to manage this transition and ‘how’ for the Government and the Party to have the right leadership to make this transition happen and to allow the private sector to have more engagement in supplying renewable energy and to have a better transitional arrangement from moving from coal to a more renewable energy base. And we are willing to provide the best support to Vietnam.
Thank you very much!