Vietnam is among the countries with the world’s highest annual sunshine allocation on the world’s solar radiation map. This is an advantage for Vietnam in its efforts to develop a solar power industry, in the context of increasing demand for electricity and the potential risks of traditional electricity production sources.
To encourage investment in renewable energy projects, the Vietnam Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) has proposed the first Draft Decision of the Prime Minister on incentives for solar power projects, especially in terms of investment capital, tax and land use rights. These incentives would apply to power generation projects using the photovoltaic method. The following analysis is based on the latest Draft Decision, which will be subject to further changes when the official decision is adopted.
Investment capital: Investors may mobilize capital from domestic or overseas organizations and individuals to invest in solar power projects. Such projects are entitled to investment credit and export credit incentives. In particular, investors could apply for a loan of up to 70 percent of the total investment capital of their project with a maximum term of 12 years. Moreover, investors could also enjoy export credit incentives in a loan of up to 85 percent of the export/import contract value, also with a maximum term of 12 years.
Import duty: Solar power projects are exempted from an import duty on those goods imported to create fixed assets of the projects; these include components, materials and semi-finished products that are not available in Vietnam and that are needed for the project’s operation.
Corporate income tax: According to current taxation regulations, solar power projects will also enjoy the same corporate income tax exemption and reduction as projects in sectors that are receiving investment incentives. For example, a corporate income tax rate of 10 percent will be applied for 15 years, tax exemptions will occur within four years and taxes will be reduced by 50 percent in the next nine years.
Land: Solar power projects, lines and transformer stations connected to the national grid enjoy the same exemptions and reductions in land use and land rental as projects entitled to special investment treatment. Such incentives, among other things, include exemption of land rental within three years from the operation date of the project.
Who will be the off-taker?
According to the Draft Decision, the Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) or its authorized member units will be the power purchaser. The power sale and purchase will be conducted by negotiating and signing the power sale and purchase agreement according to the template agreement stipulated by the MOIT. Terms of the agreement extend 20 years from the commercial operation date of the project. Duane Morris will continue to monitor the issuance of the template agreement by the MOIT.
Feed-in-tariff (FIT) rate
EVN is responsible for buying the whole electric output from solar power projects, with the electric buying price at the point of electricity receipt to be 1,800 Vietnamese dong/kwh and 3,500 Vietnamese dong/kWh (equivalent to 12 U.S. cents/kWh and 16.7 U.S. cents/kWh).
For solar power projects installed on the roof of a house connected to the grid, if the electricty generated is more than that consumed, the difference to be bought at the point of electricity receipt is 3,150 Vietnamese dong/kWh (not including VAT, equivalent to 15 U.S. cents/kWh). This price will be adjusted based on the fluctuation rate between the Vietnamese dong and U.S. dollar. If the electricity generated is less than that consumed, the electricity received from the grid must be paid at the normal commercial price charged by the electricity purchaser.
The above FIT rate is still low compared to other neighboring Asian countries. In Thailand, the new FIT is THB 5.66/KWh (about 15.7 U.S. cents/kWh) for a solar farm of less than 90MW. For a solar rooftop, the FIT rate varies depending on the capacity of the project. With a solar rooftop of 250–1,000 KW, the FIT would be THB 6.01/kWh (about 17 U.S. cents/kWh). The FIT for solar rooftops of 10–250 KW and less than 10KW are THB 6.40/kWh (about 18 U.S. cents/kWh) and THB 6.96/kWh (about 19 U.S. cents/kWh), respectively. In the current Draft Decision, Vietnam does not draw any difference between the capacity of the solar rooftop projects but sets the FIT rate based on the difference between electricity consumed and generated. Meanwhile, the FIT in the Philippines for solar power projects is also higher than that of Vietnam, i.e., P 9.68/kWh (equivalent to 21 U.S. cents/kWh). As Vietnam’s FIT is still in the drafting process and not yet final, the anticipation is high for this to be amended in the next draft to reach regional levels. This is of vital importance to attract investment.
If the Draft Decision is adopted, it would be the first-ever legal document regulating solar energy in Vietnam. The Government of Vietnam strives to attract foreign investment in the sector and to take full advantage of the plentiful solar energy—an average solar radiation of 5kWh/m2 per day—across Vietnam. Foreign investors, especially those in the U.S, have been eyeing Vietnam for their investment in clean energy. The Government of Vietnam is aware of the need to garner support for these projects and is offering incentives. While these projects may not meet investors’ expectations in the immediate future, the movement appears positive. The developing agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), affecting Vietnam, the United States and 10 other countries, points the way toward a developing energy sector in general—and clean energy in particular. Therefore, these factors suggest a growing market and plenty of investment incentives for U.S investors, as well as other members of the TPP.
Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC. Mr. Massmann practices in the area of corporate international taxation and on power/water projects, matters related to oil and gas companies and telecoms, privatization and equitization, mergers and acquisitions, and general commercial matters for multinational clients in relation to investment and doing business in Vietnam. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: This article is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.