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EVN spends $2.3bn bringing light to 9 million in 15 yrs

Nine million Vietnamese have been brought out of darkness with power from the national grid over the course of 15 years from 1998, the Vietnam Electricity (EVN) said last week in a summary report on a program that sought to electrify rural and distant areas across the country.

From 1998 to 2013, EVN, the country’s power monopoly, invested some VND50 trillion (US$2.36 billion) to bring electricity to rural households in 62 provinces and cities countrywide, except for the southern hub Ho Chi Minh City.

By the end of last year, 16.22 million out of 16.62 million, or 97.62 percent, rural households in Vietnam had been connected to the national grid.

In 1998 the figure was only 62.5 percent, or 7.11 million out of 11.38 million households, had access to electricity.

As a result, nine million people living in 2,329 communes nationwide no longer have to live without electricity, EVN reported on Thursday.

Domestic power demand expanded at 18 percent a year from 1996 to 2005, but during this period, EVN still earmarked around VND400 billion ($18.96 million) to provide power to the districts and communes that had not been electrified, according to the state-run company.

Bringing power to remote and distant regions has helped boost the social and economic development there, but financially speaking, it is impossible for EVN to recoup these investments, the utility admitted in its report.

While it cost a huge sum of money to bring electricity to the rural areas, the power consumption there has been low and EVN’s power revenue is not enough to offset its expenses.

In the 2005-2013 period, besides continuing its electrifying program in remote areas, EVN also provided power to the country’s islands, using costly undersea cable systems.

The project to bring light to the island district of Co To off northern Quang Ninh Province, for instance, had a total investment of VND1.1 trillion ($52.14 million), while the cost of a similar project for Phu Quoc Island off the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang was nearly VND2.33 trillion ($110.44 million­).

EVN revealed another VND652 billion ($30.75 million) project to supply electricity to the island district of Ly Son in central Quang Ngai Province this year.

The power utility said it will continue electrifying more rural areas from now to 2020, and will try its best to mobilize all forces, from local and national budgets to ODA loans, to fund the program.

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