Editor's note: CNET editor and Crave contributor Dong Ngo is spending part of December in his homeland of Vietnam and is filing occasional dispatches chronicling his impressions of how technology has permeated the culture there. Click here for more of Dong's stories from abroad.
HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam--It took me a few minutes to realize how crowded Ho Chi Minh City is, and a few hours to experience the first power outage. Welcome to the dry season of the South.
The season lasts from November until April. It's when this part of the country experiences its most severe energy shortage, with rolling blackouts taking place in HCM several times a week, if not daily.
(Unlike the four-season North of the country, the South of Vietnam has only two seasons--dry and rainy. Nonetheless, it's generally sunny all year around in Ho Chi Minh City. It's hot, too, with the exception of a few weeks around Christmas when it gets a little chilly, around 60 degrees F. However, it's always humid here and you'd probably want to shower a few times a day.)
Most businesses, and even some households here, have a backup power generator. Drive around the city at any given time, and chances are you'll see some of these in operation.
With the sharp population increase, Ho Chi Minh City, now home to about 10 million, is facing an apparent energy crisis. According to HCM City Power Company, the city's power demand is now in excess of 1,000 to 2,500 megawatts every day.
To battle this, the city has turned to a source of energy that it has a lot of: the sun. Since July, it has been developing a program to support businesses that produce and sell solar-powered appliances, including water heater and lighting systems. … Read more