Good Energy: Making a Difference in Vietnam

Posted in: Environment

Posted on: 12.09.2017

Our Green Gas customers can rest safe in the knowledge that the gas they purchase is carbon neutral. We do this by sourcing biomethane produced here in the UK, and then by purchasing and retiring carbon credits from verified carbon mitigation projects around the world that prevent carbon emissions. "Retiring the credits" takes them out of circulation, which is important in showing genuine, one-off carbon reduction as those credits cannot ever be used again. One of these mitigation projects is an innovative biogas scheme in Vietnam.

We asked Jonathan Shopley, Managing Director of our partnering company Natural Capital Partners, to reflect back on his visit to the Vietnamese biogas project earlier this year, and to share his view on the difference it is making both to the global climate challenge and to livelihoods in rural Vietnam.

How did the Vietnamese biogas project start?

Vietnam has a methane problem.

A country known for its delicious and fresh cuisine, it is home to millions of smallholder farmers producing rice, chicken, pork and beef for local and worldwide consumption. Those agricultural activities release large quantities of methane emissions, and the country’s greenhouse gas emissions grew nine-fold from 1991 to 2012, giving Vietnam an economy-wide carbon intensity almost triple the world average.

Why is this important?

Methane is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a hundred year period (and 70 times more potent in the first 20 years) and it accounts for about 20% of the warming potential of all greenhouse gas. This is why the benefits of this project stretch far beyond the rural areas of Vietnam where it operates.

Back in 2003, Vietnam’s Department of Livestock Production within its Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development partnered with the SNV Netherland Development Organisation to develop a long-term plan to capture methane from animal slurry across the country’s rural population. The project itself began in 2006 and is now in the third of three phases, with the aim of becoming self-sufficient from 2020 onwards.

So how does it work?

Small-scale biogas plants are constructed beneath rural households with livestock operations to collect and contain animal slurry. The biogas plants capture methane gas that arises from the decomposing slurry and use it in households for lighting, heating and cooking. It’s a win-win because it captures animal waste and converts it into crop fertiliser and biogas, saving families time and money.

It is really exciting that the project will soon become self-sufficient...it's a great model for similar projects in other countries to emulate

What was it like to visit first hand?

What struck me on meeting the project team in Hanoi was the unique partnerships that are at the heart of the project’s continuing success – partners, which include the Vietnamese government, SNV and other development agencies, the project developers and the local bricklaying masons who build and maintain the biogas collectors. Together they play a critical role in building a vibrant biogas sector right across Vietnam. Carbon finance, provided in part by Good Energy’s Green Gas customers, has enabled the project to consolidate and expand.

It was a particular pleasure to visit the project at this time because it has made great strides since it began over a decade ago and has had a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the 64 Vietnamese provinces where it now operates. It is really exciting that the project will soon become self-sufficient, and I think that’s a great model for similar projects in other countries to emulate.

It was deeply impressive to see the difference this type of project makes to local families and communities. Some of the rural homes I visited had gas lighting as well as gas cook stoves, and it became clear to me that the project delivers a significant lifestyle upgrade to more modern, convenient, efficient, lighter and cleaner households.

How is the project helping the local community? What is it achieving?

The beauty of funding a biogas project like this is that it delivers both emission reductions and wider benefits to local communities. When I visited the project it had chalked up some impressive statistics:

  • 158,000 digesters installed across 64 provinces benefitting 790,000 people
  • Greenhouse gas emissions reductions totalling 3.6 million metric tonnes CO2e
  • 830 technicians and 1,670 mason teams trained and qualified
  • €2,422,000 operating income from the sale of carbon credits
  • 8 tonnes CO2ereduced per installation per year
  • 83 minutes saved per day, mainly by women, by reduced time for manure management and cooking
  • Biogas replaces 6kg of firewood per day per household

What you think about Good Energy supporting the project through its Green Gas?

It really captures the impressive range of supportive actions by Good Energy, its customers and the project, to promote clean, green gas both here in the UK and in Vietnam. 

Would you encourage consumers to switch to Good Energy’s Green Gas?

Absolutely, for three reasons:

  1. Good Energy has developed into a widely respected, pioneering energy company offering UK citizens high quality and cost effective alternatives to fossil fuels.
  2. Good Energy’s Green Gas is fully carbon neutral through its support of biomethane production in the UK and this biogas project in Vietnam
  3. Good Energy’s funding to the biogas project in Vietnam is delivering positive impact to rural communities across the country that goes way beyond just preventing carbon emissions, and delivers material economic and health benefits to participating households.

Read more about the project here on Natural Capital Partners website and in Jonathan Shopley’s recent blog post: A Vietnamese Solution to a Super Wicked Problem.

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