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Can Technology Help Vietnam's Energy Dilemma?


FILE - Power lines are seen in Ninh Binh Power Plant, which is a coal fired power plant to supply electricity, in Ninh Binh Province in Vietnam, Sept. 19, 2007.

The Vietnamese government is dealing with an important question: how can the country supply its growing energy needs without destroying the environment?

Trilliant is a software firm for electricity grids. It says that Southeast Asia in general will see energy use grow 80 percent in the next 20 years.

But for Vietnam, growth will be closer to 200 percent.

The answers to the problem might lie in a combination of technology, renewable power, and greater energy efficiency. However, the issue is a complex one for Vietnam's officials.

They see coal as an inexpensive way to fuel the economy. By 2030, dozens of new coal power plants will open despite the pollution they emit.

Although Vietnam just increased the price it pays to solar power investors, the market for renewable energy is still small.

Vietnam faces the same problem many countries do -- economic growth comes at a price.

Vo Van Hoan is the chief of staff at the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee. Hoan explains that Vietnam is taking part in the global technological revolution.

The number of factories has grown in recent years as electronics have overtaken rice and coffee as a leading export. The growth, Hoan says, also brings pollution, deforestation, and other damages linked to climate change.

Technology can be a problem, but it can also be a solution.

It could help decrease the economy's harm to the environment, especially by addressing the country's energy needs.

One such technology is the smart meter, an electricity meter that connects to the internet.

Trilliant and the Saigon Hi-Tech Park finished a smart meter project in a manufacturing area that houses Intel and Samsung.

The devices alert authorities when there is a power outage. They also detect tampering and measure power quality.

Smart meters get information every 15 minutes, so that people can see and make decisions about their electricity consumption in real time.

Another technology that could help developing economics is energy-efficient lighting, such as LED bulbs.

Chinn Lim is the lead public sector strategist at Autodesk, which makes software for architecture, engineering, and manufacturing.

Based in Singapore, Lim said his company is consulting with Vietnamese government agencies about how to cut energy waste.

Lim said it is becoming more popular for buildings to be fitted with efficient lighting, such as LED bulbs and lights that can be programmed to shut off on their own.

He added that a common application of emerging technology is to study traffic patterns, in the hopes of improving fuel use. In Singapore's case, Lim adds, the government simulates various building arrangements to see the impact on traffic.

Smart bulbs and smart meters might offer small changes, but with more power blackouts expected in the near future, Vietnam needs all the progress it can get.

I'm John Russell.

Ha Nguyen reported this story from Ho Chi Minh City. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

inexpensive - adj. low in price​

emit - v. to send (light, energy, etc.) out from a source

global - adj. involving the entire world​

alert - v. to make (someone) aware of something

detect - v. to discover or notice the presence of (something that is hidden or hard to see, hear, taste, etc.)

grid – n. a network of electrical wires and equipment that supplies electricity to a large area

renewable – adj. restored or replaced by natural processes : able to be replaced by nature

efficiency – n. the ability to do something or produce something without wasting materials, time, or energy : the quality or degree of being efficient

meter – n. a device that measures and records the amount of something that has been used

tampering – n. that act of changing or touching (something) especially in a way that causes damage or harm

bulb – n. a glass bulb or tube that produces light when it is supplied with electricity

consumption - n. the use of something (such as fuel)

efficient - adj. capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy

consult - v. to talk about something with (someone) in order to make a decision

simulate - v. to look, feel, or behave like (something)

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