Tag Archives: energy

VIETNAM – SOLAR POWER BREAKING NEWS – EXTENSION PROPOSAL BY MINISTRY OF PLANNING AND INVESTMENT OF DEADLINE FOR FEED IN TARIFF REJECTED – WHAT YOU MUST KNOW

Last June, the whole solar energy industry rocked (and became excited!) with the news that the Deputy Prime Minister, in one of his meetings with the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) on 20 June 2018, has agreed in principle that the COD extension for solar energy projects under the Decision 11 shall be extended beyond the original deadline of 30 June 2019. According to Vietnam’s political tradition, this development would normally mean the subsequent issuance of official legislation to formalize the decision. One source infomed the market players that the decision for extension would first be issued by end of July for Ninh Thuan projects due to the province’s economic downturn, and by the end of this year, a decision to extend nationwide will follow. On 4 July 2018, the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), in coordination with the MOIT, submitted an official letter No. 4545 (Letter 4545) to the Prime Minister to formally propose the COD extension. That letter 4545 was addressing Ninh Thuan solar energy projects only but market players expected that proposal for nationwide extension would follow very soon.
However, in a rare and unpredictable move, on 26 July 2018, the Government’s Office issued an Official Letter No. 7108 (Letter 7108) to reject the proposal for COD extension for Ninh Thuan solar energy projects, without mentioning any rationale behind it or any reference to the Deputy Prime Minister’s in-principle agreement with the MOIT. That means, as a result of Letter 7108, everything under Decision 11 would stay the same, at least for Ninh Thuan solar energy projects.
What remains unclear is whether the MOIT/MPI would continue pushing for a nationwide COD extension, amidst the Letter 7108. One source continues insisting that such a nationwide COD extension (which was planned to go through by end of 2018) is still reviewed by the Prime Minister. From the IPP’s perspectives, it is understandably viewed as a 50/50 decision. A high-yielder would continue go for bigger projects with hope that nationwide COD extension will take place, while others may choose to go with smaller one to ensure the construction time to be secured.
We will keep our clients updated on the development of this saga. Time is of essence now yet everything is still up in the air. For prudent reasons, we would have to advise IPPs to go with smaller projects now for the purpose of plausible construction time. We can help introducing such projects.
Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com or any lawyers 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.

Location, location, location – 5 areas to watch in Vietnam

With the second fastest growing economy in the world after China, Vietnam offers investors an almost overwhelming range of ways to get in on its continuing success story.

 

From energy to real estate, transport to tourism, a multitude of areas are experiencing growth and attracting domestic and foreign investment. The push to ease regulations is set to continue, and the government is working to ensure an evermore fertile business climate. But with so many options, where is a good place to start?

 

Here are five spots currently generating some real excitement:

 

  1. Soc Trang

 

The Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang recently held an investment promotion conference and, with the backing of the Prime Minister, managed to rally investment pledges totalling nearly US$5.4 billion. The 47 projects are mainly focused on clean power generation, high-tech agriculture and tourism services.

 

With work already underway to reform and streamline administrative procedures, a new injection of cash could inspire even more growth over the coming years.

 

During the conference, the PM set out an aggressive development strategy for the province, underlining his vision that the coming decade would see Soc Trang expand its economy to achieve middle-income status.

 

Specifically, the province was urged to set its sights on high-tech agriculture adapted to climate change, clean seafood production and processing targeting high-value markets and eco-tourism linked with ‘smart’ agricultural models. To achieve this kind of sustainable development, provincial authorities will need to invest in human resources and education. Co-operative models between farmers, investors, banks and distributors will help the development of value chains and quality standards for agricultural products.

 

  1. Ninh Thuan

 

For those with eyes on the renewable energy sector, the province of Ninh Thuan is looking like a hot prospect. Construction on the country’s biggest solar power plant, with a capacity of 168 MWp and total investment of roughly US$194 million, commenced in the southern province early in June.

 

The plant is a project by Singapore’s Sunseap Group – a large provider of clean energy solutions – and is slated to cover an area of 186 hectares. Once operational in June 2019, the plant is expected to supply over 200 million kWh of electricity to the national grid annually.

 

Sunseap is not the only player taking advantage of the province’s valuable location and abundance of sunlight, with four other plants kicking of construction this year in Ninh Thuan. With backing from provincial leaders, the province aims to become a renewable energy hub, with the generation of 2,000 MW of solar power by 2020.

 

So far, the province has 15 wind power and 27 solar power projects, with designed capacity of nearly 800 MW and 1,808 MW, respectively.

 

  1. Ho Chi Minh City

 

With properties priced at a fraction of those in neighbouring Singapore and Thailand, Vietnam is drawing a number of real estate investors and becoming a popular destination for foreign buyers.

 

Interest in Ho Chi Minh City, in particular, has been growing among foreign buyers with a number of projects already for sale and some approaching completion in the next one to two years. Given the political stability of the government, some investors see Vietnam as having the possibility to grow like China.

 

Home prices in Vietnam have been rising over recent years, making a modest increase last year on the back of 6.8 per cent economic growth and rapid increase in direct foreign investments.

 

  1. Coastal hot spots

 

The hotel and hospitality sector is experiencing a resurgence in Vietnam, with many properties reporting strong occupancy rates and a large number of new operators entering the market, especially in coastal areas such as Da Nang and Nha Trang.

 

These sites were already known as popular destinations for both domestic and foreign tourists, with the number of international guests visiting the country reaching over 13 million last year. In the first four months of 2018, more than 5.5 million international guests visited Vietnam, an increase of 29.5 percent over the same period last year. As interest continues to mount, so too do opportunities for investors in the hospitality sector.

 

Thanks to the strong development of tourism infrastructure and improvements in accommodation, cities like Da Nang and Nha Trang now offer a wide selection of hotels, luxury resorts and beach villas to suit a range of budgets and preferences.

 

Condotels are a growing trend in this sector, and several developers have adopted this model as a method of refinancing. Experts forecast that up to 18,000 condotel units will be added to the market in the next two years in key tourism destinations, accounting for 60% of the total new supply.

 

With major groups such as Vingroup, Sungroup, FLC, Muong Thanh and Empire, as well as well-known international brands snapping up segments of Vietnam’s hospitality market, this area will be one to watch in the coming years.

 

  1. Quang Binh

 

The central province of Quang Binh has drawn up a list of 48 projects to be completed in the 2018-2020 period, with total expected value of over US$2.2 billion.

 

The projects are expected to cover more than 8,000ha of land, with a focus on tourism, trade and services, industry, and agriculture, as well as education and health care.

 

Of the projects, 14 are in tourism, including coastal and ecological tourism and resort complexes. These are considered high-value projects that will spur local job creation, boost the budget and foster tourism development in the province.

 

For more information about investing in Vietnam, please contact Giles at GTCooper@duanemorris.com or any of the lawyers in our office listing. Giles is co-General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC and branch director of Duane Morris’ HCMC office.

Vietnam – Solar Power Breaking News – Possible Extension of deadline for Feed in Tariff (9.35 USD cent per KW) – what you must know:

The current solar Feed-in-Tariff for on-grid projects in Vietnam is 2,086 Vietnamese dong/kWh (equivalent to 9.35 UScents/kWh) (VAT excluded). According to Decision 11/2017/QD-TTg, this solar FIT applies for projects which come into operation before 30 June 2019 and within 20 years from the commercially operational date (“COD”) (i.e., the date when the solar plant is ready to sell electricity to the buyer – EVN).

However, from our informal high level contact within the MOIT recently, it is very likely that the solar FIT of US9.35 cents/kWh will continue to apply beyond the original COD (i.e. 30 June 2019). The deadline shall be likely extended for another half a year or another year for solar projects across Vietnam, except for projects in Ninh Thuan. This policy is not yet formally adopted but very likely will be publicized at the end of this year.

For solar projects in Ninh Thuan, the COD deadline extension will be longer (i.e. for another one and a half year from 30 June 2019). This is due to the fact that, in Ninh Thuan province, nuclear energy development has been stopped and the Government would like to develop solar energy there to support the province’s economic development.The special policy for solar projects in Ninh Thuan will be coming very soon, according to our MOIT contact. He informed us that the Deputy Prime Minister has already approved this special policy for Ninh Thuan and all await formal procedures.

We will closely monitor to update on any further changes.

Please contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have questions on the topic or any other lawyer in our office listing. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris LLC.

LAWYER IN VIETNAM DR. OLIVER MASSMANN LEGAL UPDATE MAY 2018 – SOLAR ENERGY ROOFTOP TAX BENEFITS – SOLAR POWER MASTER PLAN – PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS – LATEST ON INDUSTRIAL AND ECONOMIC ZONES

1. Official No. 5111/VPCP-KTTH issued by the Government Office in response to Official Letter No. 5400/BTC-CST of the Ministry of Finance in relation to tax preferences applicable to solar roof projects of 50 kW or less.
Issuance date: 31 May 2018
Effective date: 31 June 2018
The Government in-principle approves the request from the Ministry of Finance on tax advantages applicable to solar roof projects of 50 kW or less. The Government also assigned the Ministry of Finance to issue relevant legal documents to implement this policy. Currently, request of the Ministry of Finance and draft future regulations on this topic have not yet been published.

2. Legal news: Solar power master plan – rumor on delay
The Ministry of Industry and Trade (“MOIT”) must report the list of approved solar power plants to the Prime Minister before 15 July 2018. The MOIT must also promptly finalize the national solar power development master plan for the Prime Minister’s consideration.
Currently, the number of solar power projects submitted by investors to the MOIT is significant. According to Vietnamnews, the MOIT has approved more than 70 solar power projects, with a total capacity of over 3,000MW, to come into operation before June 2019. The capacity is much larger than the combined capacity of projects by 2020 (i.e., 850 MW for solar power projects) as approved by the Prime Minister in the current power master plan VII.

Unconfirmed rumor: the MOIT (and other authorities) would likely not review and approve any application for addition of new solar power projects to the power development master plans / solar power development master plans from now until 30 June 2019. In addition, the MOIT would issue an official letter to confirm this temporary suspension.

3. Decree No. 63/2018/ND-CP issued by the Government on Investment in Form of Public-Private Partnerships (“PPP”) (“Decree 63”) replacing the old PPP Decree 15/2015/ND-CP (“Decree 15”)
Issuance date: 4 May 2018
Effective date: 19 June 2018
Decree 15, when introduced in 2015 was highly praised by legal commentators to be well drafted and make the PPP laws and regulations in Vietnam move closer towards bankable projects. However, in implementation process, there have been conflicting legal issues that deter investors from choosing PPP as an investment method, leading to a humble number of PPP projects thus far. Moreover, as PPP laws are only at Decree level, regulatory framework for PPP projects mainly includes the Law on Enterprises, Law on Public Investment, Law on Bidding, etc. most of which regulate public investment instead of private one or investment cooperation between the Government and private investors. The investors are also concerned about the stability of PPP regulations, as they are mainly Decrees. While a PPP project could take years to complete, regulations at Decree level may change and cause investors confusion in implementation of the laws. The state agencies also face certain difficulties in managing these PPP projects.
We provide below key notes on Decree 63:

Capital contribution responsibility
The investor is responsible for contributing and mobilizing capital for the project implementation, in particular, the ratio of the investor’s equity capital in total project investment capital is determined as follows:
– For projects with total investment amount of up to VND1,500 billion, the equity capital that the investor must maintain must be at least 20% of the total investment capital;
– For projects with total investment capital of more than VND1,500 billion:
o For investment portion of up to VND1,500 billion: the equity capital that the investor must maintain must be at least 20% of the total investment capital;
o For investment portion that exceeds VND1,500 billion: the equity capital that the investor must maintain must be at least 10% of the total investment capital.
There is no capital contribution requirement from the Government side.

Project approval authority
Decree 63 makes it clear the following authorities will approve PPP projects:
– The National Assembly decides the investment policy of important national projects;
– The Prime Minister decides the investment policy of the following projects:
o Projects Type A using state budget from 30% or above or below 30% but more than VND300 billion of the total investment capital of the project;
o Projects Type A using BT contracts.
– Ministers of relevant ministries decide investment policy of their own projects not falling within the approval authority of the National Assembly and the Prime Minister.
– Provincial People’s Councils decide investment policy of the following projects:
o Projects Type A not falling under the approval authority of the Prime Minister;
o Projects Type B using public investment budget; and
o Projects Type B using BT contracts.
– The provincial People’s Committee decides the investment policy of projects in their provinces not falling within the approval authority of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister and the provincial People’s Council.

Payment methods in BT projects
Practice shows that investors are very interested in well-located land when implementing BT projects. However, when such land fund gradually becomes exhausted, BT projects seem not to attract investors. Decree 63 has added another method in addition to the exchange of land for infrastructure, so that the investors will have more options in receiving payments. Specifically, the investor may also receive payment in the form of the transfer of right to conduct business, exploit works/ services, etc.

Conversion of existing public projects
Decree 63 contains procedures on converting existing public projects to PPP projects aside from other revised provisions. Those who are engaged in infrastructure projects in Vietnam may want to review how to implement such conversion in practice.

4. Decree No. 82/2018/ND-CP issued by the Government on the management of industrial zones and economic zones (“Decree 82”)
Issuance date: 22 May 2018
Effective date: 10 July 2018
Decree 82 regulates the planning, establishment, operation, policies and state management of industrial zones (IZ) and economic zones (EZ). It governs state management agencies, organizations and individuals related to investment, production and business activities in industrial zones and economic zones.
IZs are geographical areas eligible for investment incentives and enjoy preferential policies applicable to geographical areas with difficult socio-economic conditions under the investment law.
EZs are geographical areas eligible for investment incentives and enjoy preferential policies applicable to geographical areas with special difficult socio-economic conditions under the investment law.

Capital for investment on infrastructure of IZs
Investment projects on infrastructure development in IZs in areas with difficult socio-economic conditions or areas with particularly difficult socio-economic conditions shall be supported with capital from the central budget for the infrastructure investment.
Provincial People’s Committees shall balance local budgets to support investors in developing technical infrastructure systems inside and outside the IZs.

Capital for investment on technical infrastructure and social-economic infrastructure of EZ
EZ’s technical infrastructures, social infrastructure facilities and important environmental protection and treatment works shall be allocated capital from development investment sources of local budgets and support capital sources.
Large-scale infrastructure investment projects which play a key role in the development of EZs, may mobilize capital from bonds issuance. The technical and social infrastructure facilities, service works and public facilities of the economic zone may be financed by official development assistance (ODA) capital, preferential credit capital and supports other techniques.
Investment projects on construction and business of infrastructure in functional zones in EZ may mobilize capital by allowing investors to lease a part or whole of the land area in EZ for their investment or sub-lease business activities.
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Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann and Tran Minh Thanh under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director and Tran Minh Thanh is the Vietnamese lawyer of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.
THANK YOU !

Hanoi has long road ahead to become a ‘smart city’

Wirelessly managing streetlights to cut the cost of energy. Sensors providing real-time alerts on water leaks and air pollution. Intelligent management of public transport and road networks to avoid congestion. These are just some of the benefits a ‘smart city’ could provide, and if authorities and investors succeed, these advancements could be coming to Hanoi in the near future.

 

Plans are already in place to turn Vietnam’s capital into a smart city by 2030, with priority areas identified as health, education, transport and tourism. Taken together, the application of technology in these areas will bring significant improvements to residents’ quality of life and boost the city’s tourism potential.

 

Hanoi has already applied smart systems to monitor car parking in some districts, and an anticipated roll-out of this technology across the whole city aims to provide information on traffic status and better manage public passenger transport.

 

Similar implementations are planned for other sectors. With input and investment from major foreign players, the city sees the deployment of modern IT infrastructure utilising the Internet of Things (IoT). Citizens will be connected to their homes and primary services, as well as traffic infrastructure and vital information about their environment. For this to happen successfully, work is needed to set up modern infrastructure in transport, healthcare and education.

 

In order for these systems to be implemented and managed effectively, foreign know-how will be needed.

 

Intelligent implementation

 

According to local authorities, the process of transforming Hanoi into a smart city will take place over three phases. The first, from 2016 to 2020, will consist of building the foundations and infrastructure needed, as well as implementing smart applications in traffic, tourism, environmental management and security.

 

The second phase, from 2020 to 2025, smart city solutions will be put into operation and a digital economy will be formed. In the third phase, from 2025 to 2030, the different parts of the project will be connected and Hanoi will become a functioning smart city.

 

The capital city is not alone. According to the Ministry of Information and Communications, the government has set a target of creating five smart cities by 2020, and is designing

criteria for such projects, making it more convenient for foreign investors to jump in.

 

The southern hub, Ho Chi Minh City, has its own plans to get ‘smart’ in the near future. Tran Vinh Tuyen, deputy chairman of the city People’s Committee and head of the smart city management board plans “a comfortable, positive, healthy and safe living environment with convenient public transportation, good healthcare, less crime and clean water and environment.”

 

In addition to these benefits, smart cities will bring sustainable economic growth, and help develop a digital, knowledge-based economy. Such moves are sure to generate interest and attract investment.

 

Not all plain sailing

 

Domestic firms like Viettel, VNPT, FPT, and CMC are keen to get involved with the development of smart cities in Vietnam. Various countries with experience in smart cities have also expressed a desire to cooperate with Hanoi in this endeavour. In particular, leaders from Singapore have shown a willingness to partner with Vietnam on hi-tech parks and software industrial zones, as well as working together on the smart city project. In addition to funding, Singapore is ready to provide training and support to implement and manage smart city technology and software.

 

With Vietnam continuing to grow rapidly, concerns over rising energy demands are high on the agenda. As a key component of a smart city, a greater focus will be needed on green and sustainable energy if the country is to successfully fuel onward growth.

 

There is clearly a lot of potential in this sector, however, energy is just one challenge standing in the way. Specifically, Hanoi faces problems in ICT infrastructure, traffic congestion, water shortages, wastewater treatment and increasing environmental pollution. A dearth of qualified human resources will also present difficulties in implementing some of the proposed solutions.

 

However, for many sites, construction has yet to begin. A lack of clear regulations is proving to be a major roadblock for the development of smart cities, with the implementation of a US$37.3 billion smart city in Hanoi’s Dong Anh district struggling to get off the ground. More than 20 large Japanese firms, including Sumitomo, Mitsubishi, Panasonic and Tokyo Metro have signed up to provide various services but are yet to begin work.

 

The 310 hectare project will be designed by Nikken Sekkei Group and is expected to be completed in 2023, if they get the green light.

 

In this case it is authorities lagging behind in the provision of clear criteria. The novelty of such projects is one issue, with city leaders unsure on how these new developments will fit into existing city-planning norms.

 

If the target of five smart cities by 2020 is to be met, the government will need to come up with some clear and detailed legislation soon, so that both investors and authorities are happy with the planned projects. Of course, updating regulations in Vietnam can prove to be a drawn-out affair and investors may be waiting some time before ground is broken on the cities of the future.

 

For more information about investment in Vietnam, please contact Giles at GTCooper@duanemorris.com or any of the lawyers in our office listing. Giles is co-General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC and branch director of Duane Morris’ HCMC office.

Vietnam – Power/Energy Sector – Current Issues and Solutions for Investment and Outlook on Major Trade Deals TPP 11 and EUVNFTA

A. OVERVIEW
Vietnam contains huge potential regarding the production of clean energy. It has best conditions for developing solar power due to being one of the countries with the most sun hours during the year and best conditions for creating wind power due to 3000km coastline. As a result, Vietnam in general, is able to attract much FDI for developing clean energy projects.
Furthermore, the new Solar PPA was issued this year to solve the lack of regulation on solar power projects. Moreover, the issuance of the Circular 16/2017/TT-BCT on the power distribution of rooftop solar plants and the alleviation of the Operating License for power plants (lmw capacity) are notable developments in the power/energy industry in Vietnam. Moreover, the implementation of the Direct Power Purchase Agreement could step into pilot phase in the next time, thus, it is estimated to create better access to clean energy and increase of investment up to USD 2 billion in clean energy.
Another notable fact is the increase of the wind tariff in early August 2017. Now, Vietnam has implemented a wind power project with a capacity of 160 MW. The new tariff shall attract new and more foreign investments in the wind power industry in Vietnam.
B. ISSUES
1. Environment
The government is implementing more and more measures on protection of the environment. Vietnam plays a proactive role on reduction of emission and CO2 but the penalties for violation are very low. Furthermore, new regulations have to be issued to ensure more environmental protection, especially in terms of fossil power projects known to be a great danger for environment regarding to huge amounts of emissions and pollution. The project developers should be obliged to develop projects using highest environmental standards.
2. Solar PPA Policy
There are issues in the solar power policy necessary to be addressed.
In general, the goals on producing clean energy in large scale and the attraction of FDI cannot be reached sufficiently yet due to issues regarding electricity pricing and the content of the final power purchase agreement. These issues lead to restraining investments and delayed development of the clean energy industry in Vietnam.
Further, there are continuing concerns about lack of transparency regarding to solar power prices and due to lack of a published Roadmap for the retail sector. This leads to uncertainty of foreign investors regarding to stability of prices. Price transparency measures should be included in the Energy Plan and a Roadmap for the retail sector should be published. The issuance of a pricing framework can also lead to more investments in off-grid projects causing relieve of EVN’s pressure on power transmission, thus, the transmission system does not have to run near overstressing at daily peak hours. Moreover, the final template of the Solar PPA contains concerning provisions for investors such as (i) lack of EVN’s payment obligations in cases of transmission problems; (ii) lack of transparent possibilities for international arbitration; (iii) the lack of PPAs’ bankability. The final PPA needs to be amended to grant more security to investors and to attract more FDI. Moreover, the administrative regulations must be simplified for more efficiency in solar power project development as well as for easier market access, especially with regard on major trade agreements like TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA.
3. Power Storage
The Solar Battery is the most common way of storing energy but the technology is not well-developed yet in Vietnam. However, the country has the possibility to become leader in the new storage technologies in the eastern part of the world. This is another reason for the necessity of development of the solar industry and extremely important as power storage solution on remote islands in order with power production in those areas.
4. Project Applications
Currently, there is a very large number of applications for solar plants existing. This leads to concerns regarding to create a ,,bubble effect” which is causing gridlocks in project developing an delays in investment as well as uncertainty among investors.
For investors, to improve the chance on winning tendered biddings, it is important to provide conditions like (i) ensured safety for wildlife, people, environment or households; (ii) maintained grid connection, (iii) enough financial solvency regarding feasibility of the project; (iv) successful projects in energy or infrastructure areas in the past.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) guarantees that all investors of power projects will be able to connect the plants to the national grid. According to the MOIT, the total reserved capacity of all planned projects is only 30% of the whole capacity, so that, there is no reason for concerns regarding to finalized projects not able to start power producing because of missing opportunity on generating turnover.
C. OUTLOOK ON MAJOR TRADE AGREEMENTS TPP 11 AND EUVNFTA
In January 2017, US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the US’ participation in the TPP. In November 2017, the remaining TPP members met at the APEC meetings and concluded about pushing forward the now called CPTPP (TPP 11) without the USA. The agreement shall be signed by all member states by the first quarter of 2018. After that, it has to be ratified in each member state before taking effect.
The effects of the TPP 11 promising great benefits for the energy sector in Vietnam. The TPP 11 is targeting to eliminate tariff lines and custom duties among member states on certain goods and commodities to 100%. This will make the Vietnamese market more attractive due to technology advances, reduction of production costs and because of the high demand on renewable energy.
One another notable major trade agreement is the EUVNFTA between the European Union and Vietnam. The EUVNFTA offers great opportunity to access new markets for both the EU and Vietnam and to bring more capital into Vietnam due easier access and reduction of almost all tariffs of 99%, as well as obligation to provide better conditions for workers which is a key aspect in terms of working at power plants. In addition, the EUVNFTA will boost the most economic sectors in Vietnam. Moreover, the EUVNFTA will provide certain tax reductions to 0% for clean technology equipment as well as equal treatment for companies. Due to easier opportunity on making business, trade and sustainable development will be a good consequence for an even more dynamic economy and even better investment environment in Vietnam in general and especially in the power/energy industry.
Furthermore, the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) will ensure highest standards of legal certainty and enforceability and protection for investors. We alert investors to make use of these standards! We can advise how to best do that! It is going to be applied under the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA. Under that provision, for investment related disputes, the investors have the right to bring claims to the host country by means of international arbitration. The arbitration proceedings shall be made public as a matter of transparency in conflict cases. In relation to the TPP, the scope of the ISDS was reduced by removing references to “investment agreements” and “investment authorization” as result of the discussion about the TPP’s future on the APEC meetings on 10th and 11th November 2017.
Further securities come with the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) which is going to be part of the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA.
The GPA in both agreements, mainly deals with the requirement to treat bidders or domestic bidders with investment capital and Vietnamese bidders equally when a government buys goods or requests for a service worth over the specified threshold. Vietnam undertakes to timely publish information on tender, allow sufficient time for bidders to prepare for and submit bids, maintain confidentiality of tenders. The GPA in both agreements also requires its Parties assess bids based on fair and objective principles, evaluate and award bids only based on criteria set out in notices and tender documentation, create an effective regime for complaints and settling disputes, etc.
This instrument will ensure a fair competition and projects of quality and efficient developing processes.

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If you have any question on the above, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com . Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Thank you very much!

VIETNAM – SOLAR ROOFTOP – WHAT YOU MUST KNOW:

Rooftop PV power projects having a capacity of under 1 MW are not subject to procedure to amend the Power Master Plan. The investor only needs to register the connecting terminal with a provincial power company and provide general information about expected capacity, specifications of solar panels and the power inverter.
Rooftop PV power projects having a capacity of 1 MW or over must be included in the master or provincial Power Master Plan. In addition, they must obtain the license for generating electricity.
There is a standard PPA for rooftop PV projects between the seller and EVN in Circular 16/2017/TT-BCT by the MOIT. Although the Investment Law does not prohibit investment in the form of a direct PPA, a direct off-grid PPA between the investor and the buyer other than EVN is still pending for further guidance now being worked on by the Electricity Regulatory Authority of Vietnam (“ERAV”). Our contacts in the ERAV informed us that these new rules might come out in the 3rd quarter of 2018.
Rooftop PV power projects shall apply the net-metering mechanism using the two-way electric meter system. In a billing cycle, if the amount of electricity generated from rooftop PV power projects is greater than the amount consumed, the excess amount shall be transferred to the next billing cycle. At the end of the year or the termination of the PPA, any residual electricity generated by rooftop solar projects shall be sold to EVN at the place of electricity delivery (VAT exclusive) to be VND 2,086/kWh (equivalent to U.S. cent 9.35/kWh, the “FiT”).
The electricity price of the following year shall be adjusted according to the central exchange rate of VND over USD quoted by the State Bank of Vietnam on the last working day of the previous year.
The mentioned FiT only applies to part of the rooftop PV power plant having the commercial operation date before June 30, 2019 and shall apply for 20 years from the commercial operation date.
In order to meet this tight deadline we recommend to start working on establishing the Project Company now because the whole procedure might take some months.
Industrial parks and zones are good places to build solar panels because they have large rooftops and strong electrical connections already available. The Provincial Competitive Index including the Industrial Zones of Vietnam provides an excellent starting point for working on developing your rooftop projects. Please let us know if we shall send you the Provincial Competitive Index of Vietnam and the Standard PPA for solar rooftop.
If you have any question on the above, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com . Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Thank you very much!

Lawyer in Vietnam Dr. Oliver Massmann – Solar Power – Payment mechanism from Vietnam Electricity (former Electricity of Vietnam, EVN) to Solar IPP – What you must know:

1. The periodicity of payment for energy sales by client (EVN) to IPP

The IPP and EVN will together read the metering result on a monthly basis on a mutually agreed date to determine the power delivered and received in a month. The IPP will record the result in writing and send it together with the invoice to EVN within 10 working days from the result reading date. The payment deadline for EVN is within 15 working days from the receipt of the IPP’s invoice.

2. Frequency of price adjustment such that payment in VND reflects equivalent USD value

It is not clear in both Decision 11 and Circular 16, but we understand that the adjustment will be made at the time of payment for grid connected projects. For on-grid rooftop projects, the adjustment is made annually. Provision have been included in previous power project documents.

3. Mechanism for price adjustment (e.g. is applicable price adjustment is weighted average of adjustment period such that seller is not exposed to changes to VND/USD exchange rate).

For on-grid projects, the adjustment is made at the time of payment. For on-grid rooftop projects, the adjustment is made annually. It means that the FiT for on-grid rooftop projects remains the same in a year. The FiT for on-grid rooftop projects for the next year will be adjusted based on the announced VND/USD exchange rate on the last working day of the preceding year.

Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above.

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Vietnam plays a calculated game of risk with new solar PPA

Vietnam appears to be betting on gung ho enthusiasm to kick start solar power development rather than taking bold steps to deliver a stable backbone to the industry.  It’s a gamble that may pay off in the short term but might also saddle the country with poorly-conceived and under-performing projects in the long term.

 

To much fanfare, Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) released Circular 16 in including final template power purchase agreements (PPA) for the solar energy sector. The circular and PPA templates follow a draft issued back in April this year, and are stated to be mandatory templates for utility-scale and rooftop solar projects.

 

The original draft PPA for utility scale grid projects was met with criticism, and declared non-bankable by most experts and commentators (despite hewing closely to the previously-issued standard PPA for wind projects). Unfortunately, little has changed with the final version of the PPA.  Would-be investors raised serious concerns over the amount and type of risk the PPA sought to shift to investors, and the message delivered was that unless the government was willing to address some of the most glaring problems, few reputable foreign solar players and, just as importantly, few reputable financiers would be likely to sign up.

 

Having largely ignored recommendations provided, the final text does little to inspire confidence. The final PPA does not improve upon the main critical issues highlighted in April.  Issues include a lack of measures to compensate producers for interruption in the ability to receive power, force majeure conditions, contract suspension, and settlement of disputes.

 

Tariff trouble

 

With the FiT rate of US$0.0935/kWh for grid-connected solar power projects confirmed, Circular 16 goes on to outline that the FiT is available for 20 years to projects, or parts of projects, that reach commercial operation before 30 June 2019.

 

As with the draft from April, the final PPA does not include any indexation of the FiT to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to address inflation risks. In response to concerns over fluctuating exchange rates, the circular does state that “the FiT for the following year shall be adjusted according to the central exchange rates of the Vietnamese dong against the US dollar announced by the State Bank of Vietnam on the last working day of the preceding year.”  Annual adjustment is better than none but it wouldn’t have been difficult to spread adjustments throughout the year.

 

As a way to offset the relatively low tariff, and inflation risks, investors may be able to benefit from tax exemptions on raw materials and supplies imported for their projects, corporate income tax relief, and an exemption from land rental fees within the first three years of commencing commercial operation.

 

A risk too far?

 

Under Decision 11 (which also set the FiT) and the final version of the PPA appended to Circular 16, Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) is responsible for purchasing the entire power output from grid-connected projects at the stated FiT.

 

However, the PPA relieves EVN from payment obligations in cases where it is unable to take power due to a breakdown of the transmission or distribution grid. With many solar projects currently focused on few central locations, the capacity of existing facilities to absorb power must be a cause of some concern given the PPA’s transfer of such risk to power producers.

 

Worryingly, the PPA lacks any mechanism to compensate power producers should interruptions happen outside of their control. Not only does the PPA not provide for extension of time in case of force majeure, but if force majeure were to prevent a power producer from meeting its obligations for a year then EVN could unilaterally terminate the PPA with no compensation payable.  In such circumstances, the power producer is left alone in the dark.

 

Such arrangements might be acceptable to projects that manage to negotiate clear ‘take or pay’ terms and/or government guarantees, but it is highly questionable whether and to what extent either of these will be possible in the current climate.  As a direct consequence, it is equally questionable to what extent private finance will be prepared to bear the risk, a fact that will prompt capital to seek more favourable conditions in other markets.

 

Playing by house rules

 

If the above portends of problems in the relationship with EVN, investors may be further discouraged by the lack of specifics in terms of dispute resolution. The PPA is governed by Vietnamese law and does not itself expressly include the right to agree on international arbitration to resolve disputes, a condition that would typically be considered an important requirement.

 

As it stands, disputes can be submitted to the Electricity Renewable Energy Department (formerly the General Directorate of Energy) for mediation. If that doesn’t work, there is the option of escalating the issue to the Electricity Regulatory Authority of Vietnam (ERAV) or pursuing litigation in Vietnam’s courts.

 

The PPA does allow for “another dispute resolution body to be agreed by the parties”, which potentially opens the door for sellers to negotiate with EVN on dispute resolution, including offshore or even domestic arbitration.  But it is not clear if EVN will agree to directly amend PPAs to allow for express prior agreement on offshore arbitration or simply open the door for such a discussion at the time of a dispute.  Clearly in the latter case the deck is firmly stacked in EVN’s favour.

 

One step forward… wait and see

 

The MoIT is well aware of the deficiencies in the PPA and knows that, in its current form, it will not attract the kind of investment Vietnam needs if it is to meet both its energy demands and renewable targets. They know that investors were hoping for some of the shortfalls to have been addressed, and as such the agreement remains – for all intents and purposes – largely unbankable.

 

On the other hand however, the MoIT is also acutely aware of the significant interest in Vietnam’s solar sector. The vast potential of solar power is there for the taking, with abundant land available for the development of solar farms for first movers. With this in mind, the PPA can be considered an attempt to test the waters – asking how much risk investors are willing to bear in return for a piece of the action.

 

The MoIT is confident that smaller, nimble players will be attracted to Vietnam and make investments, regardless of the bankability of the PPA on paper. The question truly posed by Circular 16 is: exactly how much risk are investors willing to accept?  What better way to test it than in open market conditions?  If risk allocation adjustment need to be made in future, the Prime Minister, MoIT and EVN can make them relatively easily.

 

Ultimately, although the PPA is “final” on paper, the real trick is for investors to work hard and smart to agree adjustments on a project-to-project basis that re-align specific risks in acceptable ways.  Each project is a sum of many different elements and successful investors in the early days at least will be the ones that focus their energies on key issues for their projects where they can make meaningful progress.  Opportunity vs. risk: Vietnam is playing a calculated game at the dawn of the solar energy sector.  Where the chips fall remains to be seen.

 

For more information about Vietnam’s energy sector, please contact Giles at GTCooper@duanemorris.com or any of the lawyers in our office listing. Giles is co-General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC and branch director of Duane Morris’ HCMC office.

Vietnam’s proposed wind power price hike – is it enough?

One of the main criticisms levelled at Vietnam’s wind power sector is the relatively low feed-in tariff (FiT) introduced by the government in 2011. With the country’s rapid growth, energy demand is expected to soar over the coming years. Coupled with international pressure to keep to its greenhouse gas commitments, Vietnam is in desperate need of large-scale and long-term investment in its renewable energy sector.

 

The buying price of VND1,614/kWh (US$0.078) was set for all land-based projects in the country, with 6.8 cents paid by State-run power monopoly Vietnam Electricity (EVN), and the rest coming from the country’s Environment Protection Fund.

 

However, the rate, intended to encourage the development of wind power projects, was considered insufficient for investors to recover their investment capital. The tariff is also much lower than in neighbouring Indonesia (US$0.11), Malaysia (US$0.1476) and Thailand (US$0.19).

 

Change of direction

 

Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) has recently proposed an adjustment to the rate, asking the government to raise the buying price for wind power in an effort to help investors cover high input costs. It is hoped that such a move would push foreign firms to develop new wind power projects or expand their existing farms. Accelerated development in this sector is vital if Vietnam is to meet the energy targets it has set for itself, as well as wean the country off dirty and expensive imports of coal.

 

The ministry has suggested the price be lifted to US$0.087 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for wind energy projects on land and US$0.0995 cents per kWh for offshore farms. Such a rate would still lag behind regional competitors and the global average of US$0.196 per kWh as reported by the World Energy Commission, but may present a more feasible option to investors.

 

On top of the off-putting FiT, the number of wind power projects in Vietnam remains low as only wind turbine towers, accounting for 20 percent of production costs, can be produced locally, while investors have to import the remaining components.

 

Not winding down yet

 

There’s little doubt about the country’s potential for wind exploitation ­– according to a World Bank report, 8.6 percent of Vietnam’s land mass is suitable for the construction of wind farms, which would produce sufficient electricity to meet a lot of current and future power needs.

 

Some of the country’s currently operating wind farms, specifically in the province of Binh Thuan, work with the previously promulgated FiT of US$0.078 per kWh, and the Bac Lieu wind farm enjoys US$0.098 per kWh due to its offshore location.

 

The MoIT has highlighted these projects as part of the reasoning behind the rate hike. Concerns have been raised by the investors behind the projects over the time it would take to recover their investment capital. In fact, the investors in question had previously requested authorities raise the regulated FiT to $0.095 per kWh, but were unsuccessful.

 

According to the investor of the Phu Lac wind farm, the first phase of the project, which came into operation in November 2016, has total investment capital of VND1.1 trillion (US$48.4 million). With the existing FiT, it would take around 14 years to recover the investment of just the first phase. Considering the average lifespan of a wind farm is just 20 to 25 years, it’s no wonder that developers are hesitant about breaking ground on new projects.

 

As of now, there are 48 registered wind power projects with total capacity of 5,000MW in Vietnam, 23 of which have had their pre-feasibility reports approved by the MoIT and are patiently waiting for an increase in the FiT. It remains to be seen whether the suggested increase is enough for the projects to move ahead.

 

Incremental improvement

 

The proposal by the MoIT demonstrates an acceptance that despite a range of tax benefits offered to foreign investors including exemptions from customs duties, a preferential corporate tax rate of 10% and income tax and land use fee exemptions, the government’s initial energy strategy proved unappealing to investors. To offset any complaints, the trade ministry has calculated that the price adjustment they are proposing would raise EVN’s production costs by a slight VND0.08 per kWh this year and VND0.23 per kWh in 2019.

 

Even a light increase in the FiT, as put forward by the MoIT, could stoke some growth in the sector. The attraction of foreign investors capable of producing complicated parts could mean that the localisation ratio is bumped to more than 40 percent. For example, China has reached a localisation ratio of almost 100 percent for their wind power projects, but the selling price of the energy stands at around US$0.08 per kWh.

 

In summary, the proposed hike seems insufficient to really improve Vietnam’s position as a renewable energy leader in Southeast Asia. The sector remains riddled with problems of transparency and the perpetual presence of giants like EVN is an obstacle for smaller private players looking to enter the market. A meagre FiT does little to neutralise the risks faced by investors and power producers, especially with more promising offers in the region. The silver lining, however, is that authorities are open to change. The MoIT is echoing the concerns of the renewable energy sector, from both established and potential projects, and looking at ways to develop a more favourable climate going forward. Even if they’re not yet blown away by the increase, investors would do well to watch this space.

 

For more information about Vietnam’s energy sector, please contact Giles at GTCooper@duanemorris.com or any of the lawyers in our office listing. Giles is co-General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC and branch director of Duane Morris’ HCMC office.