Rooftop Solar Paradox – VNExpress

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Huynh, the owner of a manufacturing business, told me that if allowed to install rooftop solar panels, he could save hundreds of million Vietnamese dong each month. This would not only reduce the financial burden but also provide advantages in exporting to markets with green criteria.
The company is capable of investing in energy storage systems for nighttime use and periods of insufficient sunlight, utilizing the expansive roof space of the workshop, which is over 3,700 square meters.
This year, electricity prices have increased twice, with an average rise of 3% and 4.5% each time. The additional increase in the business’s input costs is around 2%. During the peak period at the end of the year, electricity costs constitute a significant portion of revenue. While Huynh is willing to accept the increased costs for existing contracts, upcoming agreements with partners are challenging due to fierce competition. Maintaining current prices is difficult for the business.
Similarly, many other enterprises in industrial parks and export processing zones, where electricity consumption is high, desire to install self-consumption solar power systems without necessarily connecting to the grid (except when facing power shortages that require purchasing). However, they are constrained and unable to implement this due to the lack of a clear policy direction.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade has currently only allowed the development of rooftop solar installations for offices and residential buildings, excluding industrial zones, factories, and manufacturing facilities. However, the eligible entities targeted for encouragement show limited interest in implementation due to various reasons.
Initially, I planned to utilize the 75m2 rooftop space for solar panel installation, but after careful consideration, I changed my mind. Although the installation cost for rooftop solar systems has decreased compared to before, the investment amount is still close to nearly 100 million Vietnamese dong. With such an expense, excess electricity generated during the day cannot be sold back or grid-tied, leading to significant waste. During the day, my family is at work, consuming minimal electricity, and at night, when consumption is needed, there is no sunlight. To use electricity at night, an additional investment in an energy storage system is required, which is costly and has a lifespan of only about 10 years.
After researching, I found that purchasing electricity from the grid would be more advantageous, providing a stable supply and cost savings without the hassle of procedures, documentation, and the maintenance efforts associated with solar systems.
Establishments, factories, and businesses with the financial capacity to invest, equipped with larger rooftops, are still not permitted to install solar panels. Consequently, they continue to experience power shortages for production.
Encouraging rooftop solar power still faces a paradox: where it is needed and feasible, it is not permitted; where it is allowed, it is economically unviable and impractical.
The 8th Power Development Plan aims to achieve a self-consumption rate of 50% for rooftop solar by 2030, covering 50% of office buildings and residential structures. The plan also emphasizes the strong development of renewable energy sources for electricity production, targeting a proportion of approximately 30.9-39.2% by 2030. Ho Chi Minh City leads in the development of rooftop solar systems compared to other provinces and cities, with around 14,150 operational systems, a total capacity of 355 MW, constituting approximately 7% of the average capacity of the entire power system.
Despite the encouragement for solar energy development, there are restrictions on selling excess electricity produced, even for many completed commercial projects, causing investors to incur losses before fully exploiting their investments. The current situation seems to contradict the green and energy transition goals. The primary reason cited is the insufficient capacity to transmit electricity within the system. However, solar power used for on-site production, which does not connect to the national power grid, would not impact transmission capacity.
I believe it is necessary to create favorable conditions for investors, remove barriers, and promptly maximize the exploitation of completed solar projects that have not yet signed power purchase agreements with EVN. This approach not only utilizes existing solar projects, minimizing waste and contributing to meeting the increasing electricity consumption demand but also builds societal trust in mobilizing resources based on the principles of harmonious benefits and shared risks. Subsequently, there needs to be a comprehensive solution to expand and enhance the transmission capacity of the system for the long term.
To cope with climate change, ensure energy security, a visible solution is to proactively and diversify the energy supply by allowing facilities to develop rooftop solar systems for self-consumption without restricting to small groups.
Utilizing solar power not only helps save production costs but also provides a competitive advantage for products meeting green criteria as required by importing partners. Domestic enterprises in industries such as furniture, leather shoes, textiles, and dyeing have been urged by foreign partners to invest in rooftop solar systems if they want to meet emission criteria when exporting products to markets like the European Union (EU).
In dealing with climate change and promoting renewable energy while fostering green economic development, decisive actions are required in terms of mechanisms, policies, and procedures; these actions must be implemented promptly starting now.

According to entrepreneur Tran Van Trai,

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