Direct Corporate Power Purchase Agreement (DPPA) to be piloted in Vietnam in 2019 in Vietnam – Opportunities for producers of renewable energy and foreign firms as buyers – how best to use the CPTPP and the EUVNFTA to make it work

In recent years, Vietnam has enjoyed one of the world’s most rapid economic growth rates i.e., an average of more than 6% p.a. Such growth has transformed the country from one of the poorest in the world into a middle-income country. Vietnam has long recognized the important role of renewable energy in achieving energy security, sustainable development and stable growth rate.

Vietnam has a wide range of primary energy sources such as crude oil, coal, natural gas and hydro power for economic development. However, Vietnam has experienced formidable risks for its economy to be based on fossil fuels. For example, in April 2015, thousands of residents blocked a national highway for more than 30 hours in a protest against pollution by the Vinh Tan 2 coal power plants. It seems most of the hydro resource potential for hydro power plants will be fully exploited soon. Those are just two examples of incidents that could significantly affect the national power security power of Vietnam. Accordingly, Vietnam must reduce its reliance on less “environmentally friendly” primary fossil fuel, and promoting renewable energy promptly.

The revised Power Development Plan for 2011 – 2020, vision to 2030 (revised PDP VII), adopted in 2016, is evidence of a growing appreciation of the role alternative sources of energy, targets a 7% share of electricity generated from renewable energy by 2020 and 10% plus by 2030. The revised PDP VII forecasts the electricity demand using an annual average growth rate at 10% from 2011 to 2030. The demand will increase from 86 TWh in 2010 to 265 – 278 TWh in 2020 and 572-632 TWh in 2030. The estimated installed capacity would be 60 GW in 2020 and 129.5 GW in 2030.

Since early 2017, there has been a surge of solar and wind projects approved by the Government after the promulgation of new feed-in-tariffs (“FITs”) for on-grid solar projects and other reforming policies to attract foreign and local investment on this green industry.

On 12 June 2018, at a seminar on renewable energy, the Electricity Regulatory Authority of Vietnam (“ERAV”) discussed and disclosed information on regulations for implementation of a pilot for Direct Corporate Power Purchase Agreement (“DPPA”) and renewable energy sector. Generally, DPPA is an agreement made between the power generator and a corporate customer in which power output is physically delivered and sold to the corporate customer for its operation. ERAV informed that it is a time consuming process since ERAV and its consultants had to conduct research and collect massive information on fundamental issues, design, details and criteria for DPPAs, especially for similar cases such as Vietnam. It is also challenging for ERAV to cooperate and consult other departments of MOIT on the DPPA pilot.

Currently, ERAV’s consultants have submitted a first preliminary report on international experience regarding basic design, mechanism and operation of DPPA. It is known that ERAV and its consultants also sent questionnaire papers to several industry and sectors, companies and stakeholders aimed at seeking their opinion on consumer market, demand, participants, and other issues.

When such report is available, ERAV will arrange a seminar for introduction of the same and seeking opinion from all stakeholders. At this stage, there is no final decisions on capacity, licensing process, participants, location, wheeling fee, and contractual terms for the piloted DPPA. However, ERAV is considering some models as below:

• Physical DPPA: (a) onsite DPPA where the power plants to be constructed around the consumers, and / or (ii) offshore DPPA where power plants to be constructed anywhere.
• Financial DPPA: this would be formed with competitive market for selling power.

ERAV also shared that the DPPA pilot would be preferably designed for 110 KV or more system (not 220 KV or 22-25 KV) since this system is the most popular, efficient and feasible.

Market access in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and EU – Vietnam FTA (EVFTA)

Currently, there is no foreign ownership restriction in energy sector in local laws or Vietnam’s international commitments. The foreign investor may choose among permitted investment forms: 100% foreign invested company, joint venture or public private partnership in the form of BOT contract. For your information, Vietnam ties in first place with Singapore in terms of market access liberalization.

The recent conclusion of the EVFTA negotiation and legal review and the signing of the CPTPP further opens the market to foreign investors. The investors now can bring their technology and know-how, especially those from countries with high level of development in renewable sectors such as Germany, to Vietnam with less market access barriers and being more secured. In particular, the CPTPP and the EVFTA make it possible that foreign investors could sue Vietnam’s Government for its investment related decisions according to the dispute settlement by arbitration rules. The final arbitral award is binding and enforceable without any question from the local courts regarding its validity. This is an advantage for investors considering the fact that the percentage of annulled foreign arbitral awards in Vietnam remains relatively high for different reasons.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com or any other lawyer in our office listing if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.