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Lend or borrow

Released at: 02:41, 20/10/2014

Lend or borrow

Energy can be banked and borrowed under a new proposal put forward by two young Vietnamese.

by Minh Tuyet & Nguyen Quynh

An energy bank would operate in a similar way to a normal bank, regulating energy use in groups such as households, industrial zones and residential areas via accounts with monthly energy norms. When use comes in under the norm, the “spare” energy is sent to an energy bank with interest earned for later use. Conversely, a penalty is applied when use exceeds the norm.

The idea of an energy bank came from the Vietnamese team of two students - Nguyen Thi Thuy Duong and Dang Huynh Mai Anh - that won third prize at the “Go Green in the City 2014” global energy contest held in Paris by Schneider Electric and attracting 14,000 entries from 159 countries.

“The more you save, the more you earn,” as Duong, the team leader, simply put it, with the project providing motivation for people to save on their energy use. Those who overuse energy also receive some form of benefit, and they can accrue an energy “debt” rather than being cut off from supply if they were unable to pay their bill.

The team expects that student dormitories and boarding houses will be involved in a pilot project, as they represent “communities”, before the project spreads out to residential areas, companies and corporations.

The cost of the pilot project can be minimised to zero, when the bonus from underuse and penalty from overuse of energy are calculated. There will be some initial cost, however, in designing and building automated systems to track the amount of energy used.

Cloud Computing plays an important role in the interaction between the energy bank and its users, as actual use can’t be manipulated and can be regularly checked by users. Supervision of the energy bank’s operations is done by a management team and implementation will become smoother with time, Duong added, as will community awareness.

According to Mr Huynh Kim Tuoc, Director of the Ho Chi Minh City Energy Conservation Centre, energy waste in Vietnam is much higher than in other countries despite electricity prices rising by 13 per cent annually. Every dong saved by curbing waste, he pointed out, can be made available for investment in electricity supply.

The energy bank model is designed to improve this situation. Payment for energy is simple, with no more bills, as payments can be made online. As people learn more about their level of energy consumption, they will become more active in limiting use and curbing waste.

The team’s idea has been held in high regard by experts. “Thuy Duong and Mai Anh have a new perspective not only about technology but also on saving on energy use,” Mr Nguyen Hoang Giang, Deputy General Director of Schneider Electric Vietnam, was quoted as saying. The strength of their idea, he added, is in rewarding underuse and punishing overuse.

Ms Tiet Minh Tuyet, Deputy Director of the Economy, Forecast and Energy Demand Management Department under the Institute of Energy, however, believes that one deficiency in the project is the manner in which the applied norms may be determined. Mr Nguyen Duc Cuong, Director of the Institute’s Centre for Renewable Energy & Clean Development Mechanism, also believes there is an issue in setting up an adequate mechanism for operating the energy bank. Each energy bank will need a policy suitable for its targets’ conditions, to guarantee benefits for all.

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