The rapid economic growth in the past years has led to more wealth in Vietnam however to the degradation of the environment as well. With the idea of strengthening the awareness of Vietnamese youth on environment issues, on 15th November the final event within the series “If Energy had voice” organized by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Southeast Asia (RLS SEA) in collaboration with the Vietnam Green Generation Network, the Vietnam Sustainable Energy Alliance and the Center of Live & Learn for Environment took place at the premises of L’Espace – Centre Culturel Francais de Hanoi. The event consisted of several interesting activities, such as a debate, an exhibition of energy innovations, a talk show, and a quiz game around the theme of energy.
With the icon of a “fan”, among young people interested in the topic the question was raised whether wind power, solar panels would be the fulcrum for the development of Vietnam. And, whether renewable energy would be selected to replace fossil energy sources that are being depleted in Vietnam? Nowadays, so far 56 percent of the electricity is produced by coal energy. It is forecasted that till 2020 the CO2 emission will increase up to 20 times higher. Vietnam is facing great problems though.
To face this crosscutting theme, two winner teams from two trainings taken place in September and October at the RLS office came to the final debate round. Based on the popular format of a Karl Popper debate, the two teams competed on the topic “whether or not Vietnam should set the goal to increase the proportion of renewable energy (except for hydropower) to 30% by 2030”. The affirmative team raised its arguments that the development towards new energy is an inevitable global trend, not only European countries but Asian areas such as the Philippines are now also focusing on it. For Vietnam, it is a key step to achieve the long-term goals of a sustainable energy industry and not to be dependent on importing coal from other countries. As the opposite side, the infeasibility of the goal was stressed, that the number of 30% is impossible in just 16 years and Vietnam should stick with the goal of 6-10% as planned in the National Power Scheme VII. Both teams had critical arguments and after a tough debate the team from the National Economic University defeated the students from the Transportation University and University of Natural Sciences to be the winner.
Nadja Charaby, Director of RLS Southeast Asia, highlighted in her following speech the importance of the involvement of young people into climate and environmental issues and shared about the development of renewable energy in Germany. She pointed out the positive sides by the use of renewable energy, of which one argument was the independence towards big energy companies. “We can produce our own energy on the rooftop or on the pasturage where the cows graze.” Germany is progressive in the area of renewable energy; however, she also stressed “Germany is one of the mayor polluters in the world.”
Next, the youth had the opportunity to directly discuss and dialogue with the guest speakers in a lively talk show, including Mr. Pham Trong Thuc – Head of Department of Renewable Energy of the Ministry for Industry and Trade, Mrs. Nguy Thi Khanh – Director of Green Innovation and Development Centre (GreenID), Mr. Do Manh Dung – Deputy General Director of Schneider Electric Company and Dang Huynh Mai Anh – Youth Ambassador of Environment on energy policy, as well as the energy options for the future. The main points discussed were around the possibility of developing renewable energy in Vietnam, in which one of the biggest challenges is that the high level of costs and selling price pose a barrier to the investors to step into the sector, especially in the context that Vietnam has a much lower electricity price than many other countries in the region. With the opposite view, one participant made a critical remark that renewable energy already covers the costs of climate and environmental protection so it is in fact cheaper than traditional energy in the long term. In the calculation of traditional energy costs the impacts on the climate, environment and society are usually ignored.
In the talk show, Khanh and Dung also gave an introduction about some projects developed by GreenID and Schneider Electric such as “Local Energy Planning” (LEP) model at community level, or the global competition “Go green in the city 2014” in which Dang Huynh Mai Anh outstandingly won the third prize. Mai Anh continued and closed the dialogue by a very impressive and touching speech about her initiative of an “Energy Bank”. As a student major in economics, energy is in her idea a kind of currency. Based on a simple principle that you will be punished if over-using power and awarded if under-using it, that automatically-adjusted mechanism will balance the energy use in a household group and hence encourage more people to save energy.
The event finished with a funny quiz game and live music by the group “Sign in” with the excited participation of all audiences until the end. Although it was closed, the series of events “If Energy had voice” has certainly opened up to the youth’s awareness about which options for a sustainable energy of Vietnam exist in the future.