Vietnam Wind Energy – Eurocham Legal Sector Committee – Meeting with Chairman of EVN Mr Duong Quang Thanh – Presenting Major Legal Issues for Getting Deals Done

On 18 December 2015, Mr. Oliver Massmann, the Managing Partner of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, Chairman of the Legal Sector Committee of Eurocham, attended the conference “EVN-HCMC Dialogue with Korean, American and European enterprises” held by EVN HCMC.

Besides the presentation on how to improve the quality of power supply in Vietnam of EVN HCMC, Mr. Massmann had an opportunity to give a speech in Vietnamese and raise major issues in relation to wind power energy projects in Vietnam, including:
– The Government offers low FiT rate in comparison to the investment of the investors;
– Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is required to follow a specific template, which is not bankable;
– The PPA template is unclear whether it is a “take or pay” agreement;
– There is no clear guidance and procedure to obtain the approval for the amendment of the PPA template.

The speech received the sympathy from many foreign investors in the conference. Mr. Duong Quang Thanh, the Chairman of the Members’ Council of EVN, well received the comments with positive feedback and personally congratulated Mr. Massmann for the successful speech after the event.

Followings are the brief analysis of the issues and the response from Mr. Thanh to each issue.
1. Low FiT rate
– Mr. Massmann raised the concern that the FiT, as regulated in Decision No. 37/2011/QD-TTg, is 7.8 cents USD/kWh, equivalent to 1,614VND/kWh, is very low compared to the investment capital of the investors in the projects. Accordingly, such purchase price cannot ensure the profits for the investors. Therefore, instead of fixing the price, the Government can regulate the ceiling price and give the parties the rights to negotiate the price. In addition, it would be appreciated if EVN can share information about the exact timeline that the new FiT would be published.
– As discussed by Mr. Thanh, EVN understood the concern of the investors on the low FiT. The Government is considering the issue. However, Mr. Thanh could not say exactly when the new FiT will be published.
2. The PPA template is not bankable
– Mr. Massmann recommended to enhance the bankability of the PPA, such as to clearly define force majeure events (Articles 5.1 and 5.3 of the template PPA) and distinguish the natural force majeure event and force majeure event due to political issue; to clearly define events of default of either Seller and Buyer (Articles 6.2 and 6.3 of the template PPA).
– In response, Mr. Thanh explained that the purpose of PPA template is to cut down the negotiation process between the parties. EVN noted the comments and will propose to amend the template.
3. The PPA template is unclear whether it is a “take or pay” agreement
– Mr. Massmann suggested that in order to secure and ensure the profits and revenue of the project, it must be clear that it is a “take or pay” agreement. Because under the current template, EVN will be released from the obligation to purchase the power in specific circumstances.
– Said by Mr. Thanh, for the time being, it is difficult to make clear that this is a “take or pay” agreement as the power generated from the wind power projects will depends on many factors, such as speed and force of the wind. However, EVN noted the comment and will consider to amend the PPA template.
4. No clear procedure to obtain approval for amendment of PPA
– Mr. Massmann addressed that in practice, the parties will need to agree on the additional agreements suitable for each project. Therefore, although the template PPA is compulsory, in case the parties are willing to amend, there must be a clear procedure to obtain the approval for the amendment of the PPA.
– On behalf of EVN, Mr. Thanh noted the comment and will consider to propose appropriate changes.

Although the issues raised by Mr. Massmann could not be addressed in details during the conference, Mr. Thanh said that EVN would do their best to cooperate and would research on the appropriate solution and propose to the Government for amendment in the future.
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Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Lawyer in Vietnam Oliver Massmann Liberalization of Distribution in Power Sector – Your Chance to get into business ?

1. What positive impacts will the absence of the current monopoly in distribution and production of power, petrol and coal have on the economy?

Answer: In Vietnam’s energy market, EVN has long been known as the state monopoly in transmission and distribution of electricity. Vietnam still features the Single Buyer Model with EVN’s purchase of all electricity generated from on-grid independent power projects. Investors find it extremely hard to negotiate the Power Purchase Agreement with EVN. Meanwhile, EVN keeps operating at loss with huge debts to PetroVietnam and Vinacomin.
The adoption of the list of goods and services subject to state monopoly will then limit the power of EVN. The State only maintains its monopoly over the operation of multi-purposes hydropower and nuclear power plants, transmission, facilitating as well as operation of the national electricity system of big power plants and those having special importance in terms of socio-economic and national defence and security. Trading in petroleum and oil is also no longer subject to state monopoly.
This is a positive movement of the Government in accordance with its international commitments on market access and its plan on privatization of certain state-owned enterprises. The Government has taken a step closer to Vietnam Wholesale Electricity Market, which is aimed to be launched at the beginning of 2016. More players will participate in the power market. The consumers would have more choices from whom they will buy electricity. A competitive and fair power market will be gradually formed, resulting in greater attraction to investment.

2. How important is it to private investors, especially foreign ones?
Answer: With an open and competitive market, foreign investors will find it more attractive to invest in this sector. They are now no longer required to sell the electricity they generate to EVN but can sell it to other distribution companies or even transmit/ distribute through their own system.
Foreign investors will also no longer face obstacles in negotiating the power price with the EVN. According to a recent report by Ban Viet Securities Joint Stock Company, although power retail price in Vietnam has doubled during the past ten years, from VND 781/kWh (3.5 US cents/ kWh) in 2005 to VND1,622/ kWh (7.3 US cents/ kWh) in 2015, this is still low compared with other countries like Cambodia, Thailand, and Singapore in the APEC. This is among major reasons that discourage investors from pooling their capital into the sector. However, power price is planned to increase from 2016 according to power increase schedule, which aims to ensure capital recovery and reasonable profits for investors. Accordingly, power retail price may increase at 8-9 US cents/ kWh in 2020, equivalent to an increase by 18.4% within the next five years. Power price should also reflect the demand and supply in the market. Foreign investors then find more incentives when making their investment decision.

3. What is your recommendation for Vietnam’s government to reduce its monopoly over the economy?
Vietnam is on its way to obtain its market economy status. In order to realize this objective, the Government should limit its intervention in the market, create fair competition and allow the market to operate on its own. In many countries, fair competition is created by limiting the possibility of monopoly. If the Government only allows the price to fluctuate according to the market situation, there will still be monopolies dominating and influencing the market. Then, together with the price policies and reduction in its monopoly, the Government should expedite the privatization process, make it substantial in nature to effectively create a real competitive market for the players.
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Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Lawyer in Vietnam Oliver Massmann Biomass Power Plant Development – SMALL SCALE BIOMASS POWER PLANTS IN VIETNAM – HOW TO STRUCTURE IT RIGHT?

Vietnam’s economic dynamism over the past years has given rise to a swift increase inenergy demand. Electricity demand in the country has been growing in the double digits annually.Vietnam has experienced rapid economic growth since it made a shift from a highly centralised planned economy to a socialist-oriented market economy in the mid-80s. This also resulted in unprecedented growth in electricity demand, which has not been observed in any other regions or developing countries.Electricity demand in Vietnam is forecasted to increase by up to 14.2 pct. annually for the 2011-2015 period and 11.4 pct. for the 2016-2020 period, and the electricity demand is expected to increase 7 times to 800 billion Kwh in 2030.
In this context, the Vietnamese government identified the necessity that the available resources of renewable energies have to be exploited and expanded to meet such a big electricity demand. While hydroelectric energy, whose resource is abundant in Vietnam, shows certain potential risks, biomass energy could be a choice for development in Vietnam. This derives from Vietnam’s advantage of widespread agriculture. The capacity for sustainable power production from biomass amounts to just 150 million tons per annum, 700 – 780 MW for electricity generation alone can be reached.
Government’s policy with regards to renewable energies in general and biomass energy in particular
Vietnamese Government recognizes the importance of renewable energy in power development and reflects its objectives in the Master plan VII on energy development in Vietnam.The renewable energy is increasingly accounting for power sources (4.5% in 2020 and 6.0% in 2030 of the total power supply.The Master plan VII sets the renewable energy target rate at 5.6 pct. of total primary energy consumption by 2020 and 9.4 pct. by 2030. The Government’s target is to increasethe biomass power to 500 MW (0.6 pct. of electricity production) by 2020 and 2,000 MW (1.1 pct.) by 2030.
Further, on 24 March 2014, the Prime Minister issued Decision No. 24/2014/QD-TTg to provide mechanism to support biomass power plants. In particular, this Decision offers the following incentives to off-grid biomass power plants:
• Investment capital:
o The investor can mobilize capital from organizations and individuals in and out of the country for investing in implementation of biomass power projects
o Biomass power projects are entitled to incentives in terms of investment credits in accordance with prevailing legal provisions on investment credit and export credit of the State.
• Import tax: Biomass power projects are exempt from import tax for goods imported to create fixed assets for the projects; imported goods are materials, supplies and semi-products which have not been locally produced and imported for serving production of projects in accordance with prevailing legal provisions on export tax and import tax.
• Corporate income tax: The exemption, reduction of corporate income tax for biomass power projects will be conducted inthe same way as for projects which are subject to investment incentives under laws on taxation.
• Land use: Biomass power projects and power line and substation works for connecting to the national power grid are entitled to exemption or reduction of land use or land rent fees.
For on-grid biomass power projects, Electricity of Vietnam (“EVN”) is to buy all of the plant’s biomass energy output at the current price of 1,220 VND/kWh (excluding VAT, about 5.8 UScent). This price will be adjusted according to the fluctuation of the VND/USD exchange rate.
Market access for foreign investor
Currently, there is no foreign ownership restriction in energy sector in Vietnam. The foreign investor may choose among permitted investment forms: 100% foreign invested company, joint venture or public private partnership (“PPP”) in the form of BOT contract.
Starting up a biomass power plant
In order to construct a biomass power plant, foreign investors first need to apply for an investment certificate. The application process is quite complicated and involves many state agencies, with certain unpredictable issues occurring. However, as the new Investment Law and Enterprise Law, which mainly regulate investment environment in Vietnam, takes effect from 01 July 2015, it is expected that it will be more time saving and less complicated for foreign investors in the licensing process.
Either before or after the investor is on board (but in each case before the construction), it is necessary to establish the project enterprise and to secure investment certificates issued by competent authorities. Then, the project enterprise has to conclude negotiations with regard to a wide range of important project contracts including the land lease contract and the power purchase agreement (PPA).
Under the PPA, EVN (in case of network-dependent network) – or in rare cases also other buyers – undertake to purchase energy from a project enterprise for a definite period and at a specified rate. The PPA is probably the most important agreement to be negotiated because it determines the future income from the project. It is crucial that, according to the PPA, the project enterprise cannot be burdened with a penalty if the power supply is affected by small amounts of biomass. In view of the fact that at the moment there is only one buyer (EVN) for network-dependent power projects, the negotiations may be sometimes unilateral. Moreover, the electricity producers have to consider that the consumers (according to the Electricity Law) have a statutorily regulated right to renegotiate the purchase price in the medium term. They have to take it into account in their project planning.
The land or real estate lease contract in Vietnam should be kept rather simple, though the aspects of land sale approval and compensatory payments may be fraught with difficulties. Usually, the duration of such contracts should correspond at least to the loan repayment plan and, in addition, a considerable period for profit generation after the repayment of the loan should be agreed (as a rule 25-30 years). Furthermore, it is important to make sure that the land use rights of the project enterprise can be provided for the lender as security and are transferable.
Small scale biomass power project in Vietnam – How to structure it right?
Considering the monopoly role of EVN as well as tough negotiation of the PPA, investors could still get out of this trouble. According to Article 1.2 of Circular No. 56/2014/TT-BCT promulgating methods to determine electricity generation price and examination steps of the PPA, the important requirement to negotiate with EVN is whether it is an on-grid or off-grid project. If it is an on-grid project with capacity of more than 30 MW or under 30 MW but voluntarily participating in the power market, the investor must negotiate with EVN. This indicates that if the project is off-grid, there will be no requirement to negotiate with EVN.
Moreover, in order to operate small scale biomass power project, the investor needs to obtain a power operation permit issued by the local People’s Committee or the local Department of Industry and Trade as authorized by the local People’s Committee.To get such permit, the operator has to negotiate (or sign in principle) a PPA with a buyer. In case the project is off-grid and renewable energy project (biomass), the operator can negotiate with a local distributor/buyer assigned by the local People’s Committee.

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

INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM? VISIT: www.vietnamlaws.xyz

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Vietnamese Clean Development Mechanism CDM market – The perspective of an emission certificate buyer

Overview of the CDM market in Vietnam

Certain projects for the reduction of emissions in Vietnam are suitable for purchasing certified emission reductions (CERs) under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The buyers sign an agreement with local project owners in order to obtain rights to CERs from the project. Purchasers are usually ultimate consumers and speculators. Most CERs are eventually used by power companies and other purchasers from the EU area that meet the requirements as well as governments of developing countries etc. The buyers of primary CERs obtain at the European Climate Exchanges a discount compared to the secondary market price because they carry considerable delivery risks and typically have met CDM related expenses. Delivery risks arise typically through project execution, but also in form of CDM registration- and validation-related risks. Validation-related risks are highlighted due to the fact that out of 85 projects which have been uploaded for evaluation in Vietnam only 8 have been registered yet. Over 40% of the projects have been under validation for a year.

Vietnam’s market potential

Vietnam could have the potential to generate up to 10 million CERs. However, it is subject to acceleration of the validation process, i.e. the publication of standard CEF for the Vietnamese grid, the encouragement of required local approvals etc. Due to delays in project validation and construction, the scope will be probably smaller. The global recession has adversely affected the access to financing, which in turn affected particularly the hydropower sector (the main CDM project type in Vietnam).

Due to uncertainties with regard to the system after 2012, projects have to be registered or ordered as quickly as possible. Although the market price of CERs has decreased due to the impact of global recession, there is still a sufficient demand for Vietnam’s CERs. Purchasers are prepared to change to new product fields and are particularly interested in projects with a high sustainable development value for the local community.

CER portfolio management

Compliance buyers have to administer their portfolio intensively in order to reflect their intended and actually provided loans. Higher prices are paid usually in connection with project types involving high registration and verification risks. Furthermore, higher costs could be incurred within projects which are well advanced in respect of construction, but it will be dependent on this and not on increased registration risks. In case of projects which have already been started, the earlier CDM consideration as part of an additionality analysis has to be proven. Distribution of risk is an important risk management instrument. For example, many buyers may have a big percentage of their portfolio in Chinese CERs, so it is recommendable to have a look at other markets, such as SE Asia etc. Distribution of risk extends right up to technology type.

Most important project types in Vietnam

– hydropower: most common project in Vietnam. Validation risks are named as medium and verification risks are low. Although in these projects are a long construction period and often numerous delays.
– wastewater used for generate energy: 7 projects are already applied for registration. Risk of validation is low to medium, construction time is low (often less than one year) and the risks of validation is medium size.
– other renewable energy types: wind is a high potential, so far only one project existing. Also bio energy project have a high potential. Risks of validation and verification are low to medium, even there is a long construction period.
– MSW-treatment- are only few projects so far, but there is a high potential for composting. Risks of validation are low to medium, medium risks of verification and medium period of construction.

Most important feasible project types in Vietnam

Case studies:

BinhThuan: 30 MW wind farm project

This project, construction of the first wind farm in Vietnam, is run by the Vietnam Renewable Energy JSC. The first turbine group has been already installed on the construction site. In April 2009, the project has been registered with the CDM EB. A production of electricity of 91.571 MWh/year is expected, whereas over 59,000 t of CO2 emissions/year are to be reduced.

Case study – Cu Chi 1000t/d MSW processing plant
This project was developed by Tam SinhNghia (TSN) and includes composting of 1000 t/d of municipal solid waste (MSW). The expected emissions reduction of CH4 avoidance is estimated at roughly 1 million tCO2e (more than seven years of credited period).

Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM? VISIT: www.vietnamlaws.xyz

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Investments in the Energy Sector

Future market development and opportunities for foreign players
– Vietnam’s strategies and master plan with regard to the expansion of renewable energies by 2015 and visions for the years ahead…

General overview:

Vietnam’s requirement for renewable energies rises sustainably (in the past, in the present and in the future by an average of 10% per annum). The country becomes increasingly dependent on the world energy price because the growth of domestic energy sources is most likely not able to keep up with the economic growth rate. The high potential of the hydroelectric power will be consumed primarily in the next decade, with gas and coal supplies being limited, so that in the near future Vietnam will have to import coal for energy production. In this context, the Vietnamese government identified the necessity that the available resources of renewable energies have to be exploited and expanded, and the currently existing obstacles gradually removed.

Potential and current status of the expansion of renewable energies:

Vietnam has potential resources of renewable energies. These sources, which can be exploited and actually utilized, include small-scale hydropower, wind power, biomass, biogas, bio fuel, energy from domestic waste, solar energy and geothermal energy.

– Small-scale hydropower: taking into consideration the economic efficiency and profitability, it is classified as the most viable form of renewable energies. More than 1 000 locations show a potential for the development of small-scale hydropower in the range from 100 kW to 30 MW and a total capacity of more than 4 000.
– Wind power: Vietnam’s potential for wind power is classified as very high. However, as currently no reliable studies exist, the resources cannot be precisely quantified. In fact, available data on wind power potential show discrepancies. Figures from 1,785 MW up to more than 8 700 MW or even way above 100 000 MW are mentioned.
– Biomass: as the agriculture in Vietnam is widespread, so a high potential of power from biomass is available, too. The capacity for sustainable power production from biomass amounts to just 150 million tons per annum, 700 – 780 MW for electricity generation alone can be reached.
– Solar energy: Total number of sunshine hours up to 1400 – 3000 hours/year, the average total radiation amounts to 230 – 250 kcal/cm2, and strengthens towards the south. Solar energy can be used for water boiling, power production and other purposes, as e.g. drying, cooking etc.
– Geothermal energy: the recent figures show that Vietnam’s potential for geothermal energy amounts to about 200 – 340 MW.

Current status:
Currently, the consumption of renewable energies consists to the greatest extent in energy recovery from biomass in its original form. The proportion of energy from raw biomass to total energy requirement is high and amounts to roughly 38% of the entire final consumption of energy and about 30% of total initial energy consumption.

Power production for grid connection: There are only two kinds of small-scope hydropower with a capacity of over 300 MW; 30 MW from biomass (sugar cane waste) and 2.4 MW from household waste.

Network-independent power supply: Renewable energy sources have been utilized to supply rural areas, distant and remote territories as well as islands. 1.25 MW solar power, 1.2 MW wind power and more than 50 MW small and micro hydropower plants have been built and operated.

Biofuel: The government signed a decision on the approval of a project for “biofuel development”. In the country, 6 projects for ethanol production have been established, with each project showing an average capacity of 100 million liter /year. Several of the projects will start the production in 2010.

Summary of the strategies for the development of renewable energies and development targets in Vietnam

Development perspectives: – the development of renewable energy with economic feasibility is given priority; – the development of renewable energy to supply rural areas with electricity is fostered and supported; – support and investment in further development of certain technologies with regard to renewable energies which are not economically viable yet; – the development of renewable energies in cooperation with the government based on the principle of effective combination of market mechanisms; – the development of renewable energies in close relation to sustainable economic, social and environment-friendly development in order to reduce the effects of the climate change and the development of the environment.

Overall goals: – Improvement of the energy infrastructure, extension of energy sources, ensuring energy security, environmental protection and sustainable development, mitigation of damages with regard to the effects of climate changes; – to increase the national production and the national consumption of renewable energies; – Completion of the energy program in the mountainous region and contribution to the accomplishment of government objectives to provide electricity for rural areas.

Special goals: – to increase the share of renewable energies in the overall national energy production – from 1.3 billion kWh in 2008, by at least 7 billion kWh in 2015 and 20 billion in 2025; – by 2020, 100% of households in rural areas ought to be supplied with electricity; – increase of the number and the area of application of cooking devices which can be powered by solar energy, namely from the current very low percentage to 18 million m2 (in 2015) and 9 million m2 (in 2015); – increase and expansion of the area of application of biogas technologies from 0.12 million m3 of the current construction volume to 5 million m3 in 2015 and 15 million m3 in 2025; – to increase the number of households utilizing highly efficient biomass; – to increase the number of households using devices for conversion of efficient biomass (cooking devices with more than 30% efficiency) from the current low number to 1 million households in 2015 and 4 million households in 2025; – in 2015, the production of ethanol and vegetable oil should amount to 250 000 tons, which corresponds to 1% of the crude oil requirement. In 2015, the production of ethanol and bio-oil should reach 1.8 million tons and cover 5% of the crude oil requirement.

Solutions for implementation

General principles:

– all organizations, individuals, domestic enterprises, foreign enterprises and organizations have to be encouraged to participate; – promotion of projects concerning renewable energies in order to ensure better marketing;
– the government should support the national grid connection at the same or lower cost compared to avoidable economic cost of projects within the scope of renewable energies;
– the government should simplify the operation of the market; – preferential prices for renewable energies should be fixed on the basis of cost effectiveness aspects; – the government should support the use of renewable energies for the supply of rural areas with electricity;
– the government should support the initial phase for the promotion of installation and upgrading of technologies related to renewable energies for effective heat and fuel production and its use, based on the principles of standard and quality assurance.

Solutions and roadmap for implementation:
– establishing a national liaison body for the development of renewable energies; – preparation of a roadmap for organizational structure development; – preparation of a roadmap for supporting grid connection of the projects regarding renewable energies; – preparation of a roadmap for renewable energy development for heat and biofuel production; – preparation of most favorable terms of registration for CDM for projects based on renewable energies.

On financing of renewable energies in Vietnam: The basics

In order to be able to keep pace with growing requirement Vietnam’s for energy, an increase of the production capacity by approximately 4,000 MW per annum and its supply into the national grid are required.

Based on rapid shrinkage of Vietnamese gas and oil reserves (which will be exhausted within coming 20 to 30 years), the experts predict that, from 2020, in order to ensure the operation of its power plants Vietnam will have to import a volume of 100 million tons of coal per annum. Consequently, Vietnam will be dependent on the import of fossil fuels, unless it develops its enormous potential of renewable energy. Despite the negligible current capacities of renewable energy plants, Vietnam is blessed with considerable potential in this area which can be developed as alternative energy sources for the benefit of Vietnam. In spite of the fact that the current legal framework is very underdeveloped yet, the government, namely the Ministry of Industry and Trade, has adopted a constructive and supportive course which, in combination with political and financial assistance on the part of international institutions, makes this sector increasingly attractive for foreign investors.

Rich sources of clean energy

Vietnam has countless clean energy sources: Its abundance of streams, sources and nine main rivers gives Vietnam a place among the top 14 of countries with the best conditions for conversion of hydropower into electricity; its first-class coastal locations can boast a wind force of 860 to 1410 kWh/qm per annum or 800 to 1000 kWh/qm per annum; the tropical climate provides solar resources with a solar radiation between 3 and 4.5 kWh/gm/day in winter and about 4.5 to 6.5 kWh/qm/day in summer. Against this background, some experts even claim that Vietnam can completely cover its requirement for electricity by the use of renewable energies.

The government has gradually created a legal framework for the promotion of development of renewable energies in Vietnam. This new legislation does not establish any restriction for foreign investors that invest in renewable energies and introduces a favorable tariff for renewable power plants with an installed generation capacity of up to 30 kWh. According to this legislation, Electric of Vietnam (EVN), the only electric power company (and the only electricity buyer), will acquire electricity generated by such plants at approximately 11 US cent per kWh during peak load times of the dry season. The corporate income tax (CIT) for these project enterprises is limited to a rate of 10% and granted for a time frame of 15 years; in special circumstances, it can be even extended to just under 30 years. The entire equipment and machinery which are imported as inherent parts of solar or wind power plants are duty-free. Moreover, CDM projects (Clean Development Mechanism) are entitled to subventions provided that the production costs exceed the selling price.

… but challenges lie ahead …

Despite this country’s undisputable potential of resources of alternative energy, investors bringing in funds for Vietnam’s production efficiency within the scope of renewable energies are confronted with considerable challenges:

1 The lack of reliable legal framework conditions.

2 Protracted negotiations of electricity purchasing agreement with the EVN.

3 The lack of electricity supply tariffs which would be stringently required for successful renewable energy projects.

The supply tariff is a preferential price which is paid by power suppliers when purchasing electricity generated by an authorized producer of renewable energy for a timeframe from 15 to 20 years for electricity units fed into the grid. The payment for such renewable power plants is financed regularly by allocation of cost to all consumers as well as partly by government aid for renewable energies. The combination of preferential tariffs and the obligation to purchase enables feed-in tariffs to function in monopolistic or oligopolistic markets. Presently, the Vietnamese law does not provide for any feed-in tariffs. Article 31 of the Electricity Law provides principally that the producer price (i.e. the selling price ex power plant) must not exceed the tariff determined by the competent government agency.

EVN still refers to an out-dated rate according to Decision No. 2014/QD-BCN (of 2007) with a tariff for hydropower between 2 and 5 US$ cent and for combined gas turbine power plants from 3.5 to 4.7 US$ cent. Despite the fact that the preferential tariff was fixed for smaller renewable power plants, the price of 11 US$ cent /kWh is applied only during peak periods in the raining season. Energy purchasing at other times costs about 11 cent/kWh.

The main obstacle for electricity purchasing by EVN at an increased price is the low retail price. Even though from 2010 the electricity rates will be based on market prices, the prices for households being ultimate consumers remain a matter of annually determined fixed prices. Meanwhile, a fixed maximum price for consumers form the industry and service sector is applicable. Against the background of the risk of social unrest, a substantial increase of the retail price in the short term is not realizable.

The monopoly of the EVN is one of the main reasons why investors are discouraged from entering the renewable energy market. EVN is currently de facto the only buyer and controls the electricity feed-in, transmission and supply to ultimate consumers. A free competition in electricity generation can hardly be guaranteed because EVN, being the only buyer, operates also enterprises just in this sector. It was criticized that the National Load Dispatch Center or A0, a subdivision of EVN that is authorized to electricity feed-in for the entire national grid, does not draw on the capacity of expensive oil-fired or gas turbine power plants even in case of marginal underload of the power grid.

There is a great deal of administrative barriers which have to be broken down by investors when initiating a power project in Vietnam. A power plant project has to be in accord with the master plan at national level or at the level of a particular province. If a project is not listed in these master plans, it requires the approval on the part of the Prime Minister or the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Furthermore, before obtaining the investment certificate, foreign investors have to conclude a Power Purchase Agreement with the EVN. PPA negotiations and application for investment certificates as well as power plant operator’s licenses may take months if not years.

How can investors survive?

Projects in the renewable energy sector are – as long as no feed-in tariffs are introduced – not viable. Insofar, 2015 should be a good year with a prospect for implementation of a meaningful legislation in this area; namely, the national Master Plan for Renewable Energies and the Decree on power feed-in tariff. The adoption of such documents will clarify the attitude of the government towards the development in the renewable energy sector.

At this stage, a clear and feasible strategy regarding the investment form is a prerequisite for economic involvement in this growth sector. Project financing (as limited recourse financing) is a classical but effective approach to capital raising on a bigger scale. No large projects in the range of renewable energies have been realized in Vietnam so far, but there were already a number of financially intensive BOT power projects in the thermal power sector (namely Phu My 2.2 and Phu My 3) which can have a role model function also in the renewable energy sector. Moreover, on a case-by-case basis, preferential tariffs and other financial incentives as a basis for BOT projects can be negotiated.

Certified emission reductions (CER) trading can be taken into consideration because of continuing great demand for CERs from projects with high sustainability value for local community. The focus should be on CDM projects with smaller and medium financial volume as well as lower guarantee and delivery risk. However, CER trading should not be regarded as primary financing option. In view of yet very rudimentary legal framework for CDM projects as well as the lack of precise and official statistics on the basis of which future emissions would be determined, the validation necessary for such trading is much more difficult. It is to be stated that from 85 projects selected for validation in Vietnam yet only eight have been verified, and only one project (Rang Dong oilfield gas separation and utilization) was granted a CER.
In a growth market like Vietnam, well thought-out planning and thorough understanding of local legal situation and the obligatory approval procedures are basic prerequisites for successful investments. The renewable energy sector is no exception here.

Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM? VISIT: www.vietnamlaws.xyz

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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