In April 2018, Khanh Nguy Thi became the first person from Vietnam to be awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize. Her research-based, collaborative approach to advocating for sustainable long-term energy solutions in Vietnam is helping to move the country toward a greener energy future. Read her Q&A below to learn how she’s supporting Vietnam’s energy transition.
Goldman Environmental Prize: What motivated you to start working toward cleaner energy in Vietnam?
Khanh Nguy Thi: Having grown up just miles away from a core power plant in the countryside [of northern Vietnam], I saw many people in my family and community have serious health issues. This motivated me to find solutions to avoid repeat situations. After studying the issue and learning that the government had large-scale plans to build coal plants, I started to think about how I can contribute in positive ways.
GEP: Can you tell us more about Vietnam Sustainable Energy Alliance (VSEA), a network of 11 Vietnamese environmental NGOs that you founded?
KNT: VSEA is a coalition of Vietnamese and internationally-based organizations working in Vietnam. These NGOs are committed to promoting energy deployment in the country. There are now more than 10 members now, and we also have individual members that are experts in diverse fields, including climate change, sustainability, energy planning, renewable energy, education, health issues, and legal issues.
GEP: How does it feel being one of the few women working for this cause in a male dominated society?
KNT: It can be challenging at times, especially when working with experienced men in the power sector. However, in my work, I believe I reflect the concerns of citizens and women in the field. I am not an engineer or scientist, but I use an evidence-based approach in my work. Through my research, I saw that I needed to tell the truth on environmental issues affecting all Vietnamese citizens. Eventually, the media became supportive of my position, and I began getting asked for interviews. The more I spoke on these issues, the more confidence I gained, and I earned the support of experts in the network.
GEP: What are you currently working on now?
KNT: I continue working with my team at GreenID, the environmental organization I founded, to support the energy transition in Vietnam. Our goal at GreenID is to help renewable and sustainable energy solutions become important parts of the country’s energy sector. I also recognize the value of renewables for the poor and hope that future policy changes will provide stronger support for citizens to participate in the energy transition. Focusing on this transition will solve many pollution issues, leading to a better quality of life through improved water and air in Vietnam. What has been a key takeaway is the impact of meaningful engagement with stakeholders. Always listen to the opinion of different stakeholders to find the right way to deliver messages and build solutions.
GEP: What advice do you have for people who want to make a difference?
KNT: When a citizen who has a good idea works hard to make this idea happen, they will have a positive impact on the nation’s development. It is important to commit and make the idea happen.