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Vietnam battles to keep up with power demand

HANOI -- Vietnam will build its first nuclear power plants and Southeast Asia's largest oil refinery with billions of dollars of foreign support, as part of plans to meet the country's soaring demand for power. More overseas energy companies are angling for a role in this ambitious building program, but bureaucracy and slow decision making remain major obstacles.

     Much of the increased demand for electricity comes from the manufacturing sector, as factories and industrial parks spring up across the country. Also, once-rare household electricity has become nearly universal. More than 98% of homes are connected to the national grid, nearly double the rate in 1995, and usage is growing faster than the nation's gross domestic product.

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