Turning the lights on: sustainable energy and development in Viet Nam

Research reports and studies
September 2014
Andrew Scott and Romilly Greenhill

Viet Nam has achieved impressive progress on both economic growth and poverty reduction over the past two decades. This progress has been accompanied by rapid increases in the production and consumption of energy, including a tenfold increase in electricity production between 1990 and 2010. Over the same period, Viet Nam outpaced other countries at a similar income level in providing access to electricity. Lighting and access to communications have improved the quality of life for the great majority of people. This case study highlights three key factors that have driven progress in energy: sustained policy commitment, which has adapted to changing conditions; local-level implementation and the mobilisation of local resources for rural electrification; and donors playing a supportive role to the Government to achieve national objectives.

While Viet Nam has made progress on energy for development, there are challenges to current and future progress. These include creating a sustainable energy mix, to stem the trend towards fossil fuels while meeting the growing demand for energy; achieving universal access to modern energy, as the poorest households are still lagging behind; ensuring a reliable supply; and reforming electricity subsidies while protecting access for the poorest. Viet Nam’s experience holds lessons for policy-makers in other countries that need to balance economic growth and poverty reduction with growing demand for energy and its sustainability.