Before taking part in the expanded G7 summit celebrated in Canada last June, Vietnam\u2019s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc reaffirmed his government\u2019s commitment to a desperately needed investment in green technology.\n\u201cVietnam is blessed with immense potential for clean renewable energy development\u201d, he told Reuters. \u201cWe wish to cooperate in research and development and transfer of advanced technologies in mining and in-depth processing of rare earth in order to create high value-added and environment-friendly products.\u201d\nThe rare earths he referred to are a series of chemical elements found in the Earth\u2019s crust that are vital to many modern technologies - including clean energy and environmental mitigation.\nAccording to Phuc, Vietnam\u2019s northern province of Lai Chau is home to the world\u2019s third largest reserve of rare earths of roughly 20 million tonnes.\nAnd yet, Vietnam\u2019s strong economic growth - one of the strongest in the region - is fuelled by coal, the most polluting fuel source on the planet and one of the main contributors to global warming.\nForbes recently reported that in 2017 the city of Hanoi had just 38 days of clean air during the entire year, with contaminant levels four times those deemed acceptable by the World Health Organisation.\nThe contrast between Phuc\u2019s words and the situation on the ground raise important questions and directly tackles the heart of the matter - is Vietnam ready for a real commitment in green technologies?\nOld-new problems\nHome to luscious jungles, forests and innumerable natural beauties, Vietnam environmental decline goes back to French colonial rule in the region in the 19th century. \nHundreds of acres of jungle were destroyed to give place to factories and farming. Soil was exhausted as a result of excessive exploitation and from mining of tin, coal and zinc.\nHowever, the most desolating effects on Vietnam\u2019s environment in recent times are the result of the Vietnam War. \nOn top of the devastating human loss and the impact on generations of survivors, the ecological damage caused during the conflict still affects the country and its inhabitants to this day.\nThe use of Agent Orange and Napalm was responsible for the deforestation and destruction of much of Vietnam\u2019s ecosystem. \nMany effects of the Vietnam War on the environment have proved irreversible, with species of animals and vegetation greatly reduced and, in some cases, extinct. \nAnd although today\u2019s Vietnam environmental problems and reliance on coal are not all result of these historical events, they are nonetheless indirect product and traceable consequence of a long history of colonialism and conflict in the country.\nA burning problem\nAn Energy Outlook Report from 2017 by the Danish Energy Agency shows that over the last decade, Vietnam has increased its reliance on coal. \nIn 2005, 35% of Vietnam\u2019s energy came from biomass sources. By 2015, it accounted for less than 17% of its energy. Coal and oil sources rose from 49% to 63% in the same period. \nThis makes Vietnam the largest greenhouse gas emitter in ASEAN over the last ten years.\nAnd despite this increment in pollution levels, coal consumption is soaring in the country and is an important factor in its strong economic growth.\nIn the first five months of 2018, the Vietnam National Coal and Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin) put national coal consumption at 17.6 million tons.\nThis is a vast increase on 2017 levels, which reached 2.8 million tons in the same period.\nOne-third of Vietnam's power supply is currently generated from either coal or energy imports; the other two-thirds come from hydro-energy and gas.\nDue to Vietnam's industrialisation and integration, the growth in electricity demand has been increasing at an enormous rate. \nWith a population of over 90 million people and an average annual GDP growth rate of 6.9%, in order to ensure sustainable growth, Vietnam has increased its energy demand by 10% during the past 10 years, and is expecting to continue to do so by another 400% over the next 20 years. \nElectricity consumption accounts for the majority of the energy demand and is expected to increase at an even faster rate, by 600%, over the next 20 years.\nThe country has almost reached its maximum potential for hydropower production, its oil and gas supplies are running low, and as we have seen, coal is having devastating effects on both people and the environment - what are the alternatives left then?\nVietnam has plenty of room for expansion into renewables. It has the capacity to generate 500-1,000 kWh\/m2 annually from wind farms and it also enjoys between 2,500 and 3,000 hours of annual sunshine.\nAlthough \u00a0it is considered \u00a0that Vietnam has a \u00a0significant renewable energy \u00a0potential, the current development of renewable energies in Vietnam is still low compared with the actual potential. \nIs Phuc\u2019s government then doing enough?\nThe alternatives\nAs of April 2018, there were 245 planned renewable energy projects in Vietnam. However, only 19% had reached the construction stage, and only 8% were in operation.\nThese figures show that Phuc\u2019s government could still show a stronger interest and facilitate the way for this project to come to fruition. \u00a0\nThe volume of planned projects indicates companies are interested in transitioning to renewables, however government policy is not designed to encourage the switch.\nTo meet Vietnam\u2019s economic development needs, the country has to produce an extra 25-30% of the volume of electricity in the coming years and therefore diversify its investments, particularly in the area of non-carbon based energy.\nAccording to the national electricity development plan, the production of electricity via renewable energy should reach 5% in 2020.\nEstimates produced by the Vietnam Electricity group (EVN), wind power production could reach 513,000 MW in 2020.\nIn February 2011 the Hanoi development project was launched. The project consists of re-developing two villages to create a miniature town of around 180 hectares to integrate green technologies such as air-conditioning systems using renewable energy, waste recycling and rainwater collection points. \nInitially, the zone aims to accommodate the 6,000 residents of the 2 villages on the outskirts of Hanoi although the number of residents could rise to 20,000 once the project is finished after 10-15 years of work.\nBecause electricity consumption in the commercial and industrial sectors is expected to multiply in the coming years, now is a critical moment to support large energy users in shifting to clean energy. \nThe Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), a coalition of more than 100 large energy buyers helping corporations purchase 60 GW of renewable energy in the United States by 2025, launched a workgroup in Vietnam last year.\nCo-led by WRI, Allotrope Partners and the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory under the Clean Energy Investment Accelerator (CEIA), the workgroup plans to collaborate with large commercial and industrial energy consumers to identify ways to lower the cost of deploying and integrating renewable energy in the country.\nAnd in March this year the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for grassroots advocacy was awarded to the first Vietnamese recipient, 42-year-old clean energy champion Nguy Thi Khanh, who hopes to end Vietnam's reliance on coal and persuade the country to take a greener approach.\nFor Vietnam, as for most countries in today\u2019s greenhouse effect earth, green technology is not an option but a must if environmental disaster is to be avoided. \nThe question is, is Vietnam\u2019s government willing to be a regional clean energy leader?