Friday , June 21 2024

Northern Vietnam’s unrelenting power outages explained

Hanoi and other northern localities have been suffering from intermittent blackouts this month, most of them unannounced.

For people living in some places in Phu Dien Ward in Hanoi’s Bac Tu Liem District, June 5 was the first day of the summer when a power outage occurred.

Hong Khanh, who lives in the ward’s 5th sub-quarter, says: “At first I thought the outage was a technical problem and power would return [soon].”

But the power, which went at 10 a.m., only returned at 7:30 p.m.

Several other sub-quarters in the ward also suffered similarly without power between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

They were all unannounced, Khanh says.

Nghia Hao village in Chuong My District, around 30 km from downtown, has been facing blackouts every other day since the end of May, typically from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. but sometimes starting as early as 8 a.m.

“As we run a motel, every day I check the website of the city power company to check the load shedding schedule,” Kim Anh says.

“But on the days that blackouts actually happened, there were no announcements on the website.”

A sudden power cut on June 6 forced Do Thi Van to take her two kids into a cave in Tram mountain, a kilometer away from their house, as it is cooler there. They could not survive the Hanoi’s summer heat staying at home without air conditioners or electric fans.

Dozens of fellow families in Chuong My’s Phung Chau Commune had the same idea.

People take refuge from the summer heat in Tram Cave in Chuong My District, Hanoi, amid power outage, June 6, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Chinh

People take refuge from the summer heat in Tram Cave in Chuong My District, Hanoi, amid power outage, June 6, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Chinh

In many other Hanoi districts like Nam Tu Liem, Thanh Xuan and Long Bien, and provinces like Bac Ninh and Bac Giang, there are sudden outages that last six to eight hours.

Longer, more frequent blackouts

While Vietnam Electricity and its subsidiaries do not announce the locations of blackouts, they occur mostly in the north.

In Hanoi, all districts except Thanh Tri, Dan Phuong, Phuc Tho, and Soc Son received notices about power cuts between June 2 and 8.

Downtown districts like Hoan Kiem, Ba Dinh and Hai Ba Trung usually have fewer and localized blackouts, but in the rest of the city they are much more frequent and wider.

Ha Dong District is the worst sufferer. During the past week blackouts happened every day in many of its parts. The electricity usually goes off from 8 a.m. to noon and 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., affecting civilians and businesses alike.

The actual number and frequency of outages are higher than announced. EVN explains the discrepancy by pointing to heightened power demand, which requires sudden load shedding in some places without prior announcement.

Otherwise, blackouts are scheduled to carry out maintenance of the power grid, it adds.

Like Hanoi, Hai Phong too announced that power would be cut intermittently between June 3 and 11 in all districts, with each outage lasting two to three hours. While most were scheduled, there were some on June 4 and 5 that occurred unannounced.

The Hai Phong power utility says daily demand in the city in summer is equivalent to 1,500-1,600 MW, but on June 4 and 5 it did not receive 500-600MW worth of electricity from the National Power Regulation Center.

No widespread outage in central, southern regions

In May the rains arrived in the south and have helped reduce power demand in the region.

Statistics from the Southern Power Corporation, which manages electricity in HCMC and 21 southern localities, show that the number of power cuts was around 19% down in the first five months compared to the same period last year.

They have also been shorter, at an average of 78 minutes, a 23% decline.

Lam Xuan Tuan, deputy director of the Southern Power Corporation, says the fact that several factories have been forced to reduce production due to the economic situation has also reduced power demand from businesses by 2%.

Since the dry season ended in May, power supply in the region has been stable, he adds.

Bui Trung Kien, deputy general director of the HCMC Power Corporation, says power demand has reduced in June compared to May.

Maintenance of the grid to prepare for the rainy season has also been completed, he adds.

EVN says that in the central and Central Highlands regions power demand has risen due to the heat, but there has been no shortage.

The Central Power Corporation, which supplies electricity to 13 localities between Quang Binh and Khanh Hoa provinces and in the Central Highlands, says in May demand from businesses increased by 4% compared to April and by 12% from the same period last year.

While demand from domestic consumers and sectors like agriculture has increased, the industrial sector, which has the highest demand, has been consuming less than usual, preventing the need for load shedding.

Ngo Son Hai, deputy director of EVN, says the northern region requires 17,000 MW worth of power daily, rising to 20,000 MW during hot periods.

Most of the electricity in the region comes from hydropower and thermal power plants, but both have seen reduced production due to various reasons, causing a severe shortage.

Ministry of Industry and Trade regulations require consumers to be notified about blackouts except in exceptional circumstances like problems with the grid, safety risks for users and infrastructure, insufficient supply which could jeopardize the grid, and other unavoidable issues.

EVN says all unannounced blackouts have been caused by such factors.

The blackouts will be more frequent and longer in the coming weeks, especially with 11 hydropower plants shutting down due to lack of water, it adds.

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