Vietnam charts uncertain coal path as finance falls short

(3 Dec 2023) When Vietnam and a group of rich countries struck up a $15.5 billion energy transition deal nearly a year ago, they set out an enticing prospect: cheap financing would help the nation leave coal behind.

But, as vague ambitions now turn into concrete plans, the reality looks rather different.

A timeline for the early closure of coal power plants is absent from the investment blueprint for the Just Energy Transition Partnership (Jetp) unveiled at a Cop28 side event on Friday. The government expects instead to operate plants “flexibly” and to rely on the controversial co-firing of biomass and ammonia with coal.

Rich countries have also largely backtracked on their initial promise to offer financial support on more attractive terms than Vietnam could already secure from investors. Nearly 60% of the money will be provided as commercial loans, while the tiny share of grants available is primarily earmarked for technical support, the 223-page document shows.

Leo Roberts, a coal transition expert at E3G, said there are “major reasons” to be concerned.

“The investment plan is no longer the pathway to replacing coal power with clean alternatives the Jetp originally promised. Instead, it focuses on expensive or unproven technologies,” he added. “Those directly undermine the pace and scale of the energy transition.”

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, 3 Dec 2023: Vietnam charts uncertain coal path as finance falls short