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Hyundai E&C to continue coal power project in Vietnam despite criticism

An image of a coal-fired power plant (123rf)
An image of a coal-fired power plant (123rf)
Climate activists on Friday blasted South Korean builder Hyundai Engineering & Construction for its decision to continue its 1,200-megawatt Quang Trach 1 coal power project along with Mitsubishi and Vietnam’s Construction Corp.

Seoul-based not-for-profit organization Solutions for Our Climate said the failure to scrap what was proclaimed to be Hyundai E&C’s final coal project “directly contradicts the company’s own ESG vision” and neutralizes the impact of Seoul’s pledge to end public overseas coal power financing in line with its carbon neutrality initiative.

“Hyundai E&C’s apparent plans to build one final coal plant defeats the sincerity of the company’s coal exit, and contradicts its own attempts to build a reputation as a forward-thinking and sustainable company,” said SFOC’s Climate Finance Program Director Youn Se-jong in a statement.

This comes a few days after Hyundai E&C Chief Executive Officer Yoon Young-joon sought to quell environmental concerns surrounding Quang Trach 1 project in a letter to climate activist groups Market Forces, Mekong Watch, Friends of the Earth Japan and Fridays for Future, in response to their calls for withdrawal. The letter was disclosed Friday by SFOC.

The consortium comprising Hyundai E&C and Mitsubishi won a combined $1.3 billion contract in June to build a thermal power plant in Vietnam’s central province of Quang Binh over the next two years.

The coal project will be subject to “far stricter” environmental standards, as the builder is required to adopt ultrasupercritical technology for power generation for the first time in Vietnam, Yoon noted. Moreover, the techniques to reduce gas emissions will be in place, such as flue gas desulfurization and selective catalytic reduction, according to the letter.

As a result, the project will be executed by emitting dust, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides below the level suggested in guidelines by the World Bank and the Environmental Impact Assessment, the letter said.

But Youn of SFOC insisted that exiting from the Vietnamese project was the only option to meet responsibilities based on its sustainability initiative.

“By continuing the Quang Trach 1 project, Hyundai E&C and Hyundai Motor tarnishes the impact of Korea’s public coal finance exit and their own ESG efforts,” Youn noted.

Hyundai E&C said the company “will walk through the stages of ongoing coal thermal power plant construction to reach an end, and forestall any financing to a coal power project, or engagement in its construction, in Korea and abroad,” in a sustainability report released Friday.

By Son Ji-hyoung (consnow@heraldcorp.com)
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