The Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are to help Vietnam improve the environmental performance of its electricity sector, where operation of coal-fired power plants in particular is contributing to air quality problems.

Through a $600 000 grant from AFD, to be administered by ADB, the assistance will focus on strengthening the environmental management processes at EVN, Vietnam’s main generator of electricity, and on addressing air pollution in Quang Ninh province in the north of the country.

Over 60 % of EVN’s 8822 MW of installed capacity is conventional thermal plant fired by coal, oil or gas. EVN employs advanced technology on its new coal-fired power plants to minimise their environmental impact but other plants have out-of-date designs and suffer from poor maintenance. Analysis by ADB has also found that the utility lacks strong instituted systems for environmental management.

The $720 000 Capacity Building on Environmental Management to the Power Sector project will also help the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of Quang Ninh province address air pollution problems. Quang Ninh has the largest coal reserves in Vietnam, with more than 100 000 people employed by the coal industry, with many others working in subsidiary and services industries related to coal.

“The daily operation of thermal power plants, especially those based on coal, has been contributing to environmental problems and deteriorating air quality and public health in both urban and rural areas due to air emissions, waste generation and inefficiency of plant operation,” said Yue-Lang Feng, principal environment specialist of ADB’s Southeast Asia Department.

The project is central to the ADB’s development strategy for Vietnam, which advocates environmental management to ensure sustainable development of the economy, which is growing at over seven per cent per year. Power demand in the country is estimated to be growing at around 16 per cent, says the ADB.