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!

Vietnam – Solar Energy – Action plan for getting deals done with the new Power Purchase Agreement

Interview with Dr. Oliver Massmann\

1. Which significant changes does the new PPA contain for the solar energy sector?

Decision 11 introduces the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) rate of UScents 9.35 per kWh. The FiT rate is only applicable for on-grid solar power project with efficiency of solar cells greater than 16% or with efficiency of the modules greater than 15%. The FiT rate depends on the currency exchange rate of the Vietnamese Dong and the US-Dollar. The rate remains the same throughout the whole year. It is adjusted by the Vietnamese State Bank on the last working day of the year for being used in the following year.

As a result, the financial planning is easier and it grants certain security for investors such as protection against currency fluctuation.

2. Which aspects in the new PPA have changed compared with the draft PPA from April 2017?

Compared with the draft PPA, the FiT rate is now indicated in the final version and there is reference to the adjustment of the FiT in case of USD/VND exchange rate fluctuation.

The MoIT made no big changes regarding the shortcomings of the draft of the PPA from April 2017.

The investor still has to bear the biggest risk.

3. Is the PPA bankable?

No, in general the PPA is not bankable in its final version.

4. Is there a way to make it bankable?

Yes, it is possible to make the PPA bankable. We have 20 years of experience making PPAs bankable for gas and coal fired power plants and wind energy plants in Vietnam. The investor should use all business channels and experienced negotiators to make the PPA bankable.

It is a matter of negotiation and experience. Decision 11 is granting investors the possibility to negotiate the conditions with EVN. The price remains fixed.

Agreements such as the EU – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (“EVFTA”) or the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”), which is now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“CPTPP”), lay a big milestone for making the PPA bankable.

The EVFTA was signed in 2015 and is expected to be ratified by all member countries by 2018. It is probably going to take effect in 2019. It is estimated to generate an increasing GDP and to liberalize the economy of Vietnam. Another aspect is the elimination of almost all custom duties (over 99% of all tariff lines). As a result, there will be a huge impact on trade development and the interest of investors.

Another important agreement is the CPTPP. On 4th February 2016 the TPP was signed between 12 countries. The signing nations made up 28% of the global trade and 40% of the global GDP. However, at the beginning of 2017, the US President Trump decided to withdraw from the TPP. The remaining 11 member states discussed the future of the TPP in APEC event in Da Nang, Vietnam and agreed to push ahead with the TPP but now under the name of CPTPP. Furthermore, the states agreed to work out a new framework agreement, which includes changes to the previous TPP agreement. The largest amendment was made in the field of intellectual property, for example, easing the protection of copyright or the special protection of biologics and pharmaceuticals.

However, the level of market access is still the same as in the first TPP. For some countries, further negotiations have to take place and they need time to adapt their laws to the CPTPP rules. The negotiators have set the goal of signing the revised TPP by the first quarter of 2018. After 6 countries have ratified the partnership, it will come into effect.

With the CPTPP, market access to more sectors will be opened than the WTO such as telecommunication, distribution of goods, manufacturing and fabrication. However, there will remain a few restrictions in the power/energy sector as discussed below.

As a result of the EVFTA and the TPP, Vietnam will get access to a huge part of international markets. This gives Vietnam the possibility to increase the amount of imports and exports (estimated up to 37% higher until 2025) and to improve foreign investments.

Another essential instrument is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)[N1] which is going to be applied under the EVFTA and the TPP. 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.

As a conclusion, the bankability of the PPA will get enhanced as a consequence of the EVFTA and TPP in the next few years if the legislative framework is being reformed in the right direction. The economy will become more dynamic because of access to other markets and further foreign investments. With the implementation of the ISDS in the TPP, investors will be more secured in relation to dispute resolution and protection against the risks of international trading. As a result, banks will be more willing to finance PPAs.

Our recommendations: For now, the bankability of the PPA is not as it is expected. But you should be aware of the upcoming agreements which will lead to a big impact on the economy growth and the economy itself. If everything is improving in the right direction as it is now, the PPAs will be more bankable in the future and there will be better investment opportunities.

5. How was the bankability issue handled in the past years?

The TPP and the EVFTA are not the only agreements regarding the bankability of the PPA.

Vietnam and the USA signed the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) in 1999 which was implemented in 2001. It was a huge success and very important agreement for the economy of Vietnam. It was the first opening of the Vietnamese market and important for the creation of more business opportunities and new standards for financing projects.

Another important fact was Vietnam’s accession to the WTO in 2007. This has improved trade relations between Vietnam and other countries by removing trade barriers and the commitment to non-discrimination. It was also a political sign to show Vietnam’s will to get integrated in the international trade by accepting international trading rules.

To be able to fulfill the commitments, it is necessary to make legislative adjustments and adopt laws that ensure the viability and efficiency of the projects. In the last years, many important laws have been introduced. They have helped to enhance the bankability of the PPA, for example, the 2014 Investment Law, 2014 Enterprise Law, 2012 Labor Law, etc.

In addition, in 2011, the legal framework for wind power projects was introduced.

Our recommendation: You should use existing international agreements and local laws as the bases for negotiation. Remember to rely on existing precedents and keep in mind that there are some difficulties for project development. But with a well-structured project development, it is still possible to getting a bankable PPA done.

6. What are the main risks of the PPA for investors?

With many solar projects currently focused on a few central locations, the capacity of existing facilities to absorb power must be a cause of some concerns given the PPA’s transfer of such risk to power producers.

EVN holds a monopoly of distribution, repair, maintenance, inspection and examination of the grid.

There is a big risk because of the lack of the government’s guarantee for EVN’s payment obligation in cases energy is provided from the producer but cannot be transmitted due to interruption of EVN’s grid connection. One solution for bridging that guarantee gap can be the use of the MIGA backup from the Worldbank (Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency) or backup from the Asean Development Bank.

Reasons for the interruption can be, for example: force majeure or termination of contracts. EVN can refuse transmitting the energy in cases of maintenance or repairing.

Circular 16 does not contain any guarantee or compensation for investors in these cases.

Our recommendations for avoiding potential risks: Be aware of veto rights of EVN and Vietnamese authorities. You have to be patient because the decision making process in Vietnam goes through many levels and takes time.

7. There will be conflicts between the investors and EVN because of the shift of risks to the investors. Which means of conflict resolution does the PPA grant to investors?

In general, the PPA is governed by the Vietnamese law.

The PPA does not provide for international arbitration as a means of dispute resolution.

Conflicts can be submitted to the Department of Electricity and Renewable Energy. If this option fails, investors can seek help at the Electricity Regulatory Authority of Vietnam (ERAV) or with application to a Vietnamese court.

The PPA implicitly allows the involvement of domestic and offshore arbitration. However, whether it can be a prior agreement with EVN in the PPA or only until there is an arising dispute simply lies in the hands of EVN.

Our recommendations for successful negotiations with EVN: You have to understand how EVN is working and what their targets are. Be aware of their monopoly position in the energy sector in Vietnam. Don’t try “to reinvent the wheel”!

Do not overexert them with too ambitious intentions related to the development proposal. They might be afraid of so many new things. Rely on workable precedent strategies and make reference to successful projects.

8. Which view does the MoIT hold regarding the shortcomings of the PPA?

The MoIT knows about the shortcomings of the PPA and is aware about the fact that the PPA will not attract investors to meet the power demand or to solve problems regarding the development of renewable energy.

The MoIT also knows that the solar energy sector in Vietnam has a lot of potentials.

Finally, the MoIT expects to attract smaller investment projects where bankability is not really an issue for the investors.

9. Is the view of the MoIT realistic?

In our opinion, the MoIT’s view is not realistic. It may lead to unfeasible projects because of the existing risks of the final version of PPA and without assurance for supportive services from a bank. Furthermore the success of projects depends on the result of the negotiation with EVN.

10. Which advice can you give to future investors regarding their project development?

Be aware! You have to take care of your project on a step-by-step-base and get well prepared for the negotiations with EVN when you decide to invest in an on-grid power project.

***

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. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

 

Thank you!

 

 

 

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.

THANK YOU !

 

 

 

 

VIETNAM – MAIN ISSUES RESTRAINING INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT AND OUTLOOK ON THE EUROPEAN UNION-VIETNAM FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (EVFTA)

Vietnam’s ability to continue expanding its economy is linked to competitiveness. It is clear that supporting institutional regulatory reform and infrastructure development will ensure economic growth in the country. In practice, this approach is feasible by promoting public-private partnership (PPP). This goal includes a long-term investment in infrastructure that harmonizes PPP investors and Vietnamese Government’s interests.

By way of illustration, State-owned enterprises (SOEs) remain dominated in Vietnam. However, due to budget pressure, the government is committed to reform SOEs. Accelerating the development of foreign investment requires new approach to create a favorable legal framework for PPP. The issuance of a long awaited Decision 58/2016/QD-TTg (Decision 58) on classification of SOEs, is expected to facilitate the process.

Another key aspect to consider is SOE equitization for revenue reasons. In 2016, the State received approximately USD800 million from equitization and allocated some of these funds to reduce budget deficit.[1] Although the equitization process started in 1992, only around 2,600 firms have been equitized in the first 13 years of that program.[2] Meanwhile, the goal during 2014-2015 was to equitize 432 SOEs.[3] According to Decision 58, it is expected to rearrange 103 SOEs and equitize 137 SOEs within 2016-2020 period.

The historic poor performance of SOEs equitization is about to change gradually. Furthermore, there are some questions to address from the investors perspective since the State plans to retain ownership from below 50% (in 106 enterprises), 50%- 65% (in 27 enterprises) and above 65% (in 4 enterprises) by 2020 across different sectors.

Despite the efforts to enhance investments in infrastructure and energy, many issues related to the implementation of current regulations that affect transparency and enterprise value remain unresolved, namely:

Share price

Currently share price as determined by the Government must be market price. There are cases when market price is determined based on the listed price or transaction price in the UpCom market. However, such market price determination is not fair and accurate when the shares are sold to strategic shareholders due to the nature of the participants in the securities markets (i.e., participants are mainly financial institutions and speculators) as well as the minority percentage of listed stock compared with the total shares of the listed companies. Indeed, share price when sold to strategic shareholders must be the lowest successful bid price in an IPO. In addition, share price of joint stock companies listed on UpCom market must not be within the price range of that securities code on the transfer date.

Public-private partnership (PPP)

Implementation of Decree 15 on PPP has shown certain limitations. Opening a new chapter of PPP requires further work in understanding strategic factors that make PPP effective and ensure that key risk minimizing solutions are undertaken properly.

Bankability is a crucial issue during the project structuring phase. The requirements for a project to be bankable differ from sector to sector or by jurisdictions. However, there are common factors that render the project bankability and raise its risk exposure such as restrictions on mortgaging land use rights to foreign lenders, complex investment approvals to investors (e.g., land acquisition process), and payment ability of an SOE off-taker. Therefore, practical preferential policies should be issued to strengthen PPP investment.

In addition, investment in the form of PPP is more complex than public investment. However, in the management of PPP projects, public investment laws and regulations have currently been applied, resulting in lengthy investment procedures. Furthermore, there is a problem regarding the limited resources allocated to authorized state agencies (ASAs). It is expected that Decision 522 on managing and using project development fund raised by Asia Development Bank and Agence française de développement (AFD) will help to support the ASAs in preparing for the project development.

With regard to infrastructure projects, the current legislation allows some flexibility regarding the use of incentives under the Investment Law. Nevertheless, the principle of the PPP framework is to develop highly-efficient projects through loans from private investors such banks or credit institutions and thus releasing the State from financial burdens. If local companies borrow from commercial state banks, this will not meet the PPP principle. In addition, the limited attractiveness of PPP framework also deter local and foreign non-State banks from offering loans.

It is worth considering a risk allocation framework that harmonizes with the general principle that risks should be allocated to parties that are in the best position to manage them or make reasonable determination of that risk.

Power project developments

One issue is project implementation timeline in Circular 43/2016/TT-BCT. Specifically, this legal instrument requires project development commitments from investors and requirements to seek the MOIT’s approval when there are delays in the project implementation. According to Circular 43, if a BOT project falls behind the agreed timeline, the adjustments will only be approved under limited exceptions such as (i) force majeure events; (ii) the misconduct of competent authorities or (iii) the misconduct of a third party. In practice, the schedule agreed between the MOIT and investors is difficult to meet as a result of complex project preparation process as well as involvement of many related parties.

Outlook on the EVFTA

The market access commitment in the EVFTA goes largely beyond both those in the WTO and other FTAs ratified by Vietnam, thereby giving EU enterprises the best possible access to the Vietnamese market. Accordingly, provisions on SOEs are considered the most ambitious disciplines that Vietnam has ever reached. Such rules will put private enterprises on an equal level with enterprises where the Government is the owner. Under the EVFTA, EU companies will be permitted to bid for contracts in infrastructure, power distribution, railway and healthcare projects the same as Vietnamese bidders.

Conclusion

Investment in infrastructure is considered as a strategic measure to reach sustainable development in Vietnam. Indeed, the government has improved the legal framework to support PPP model and privatization of energy and power sectors. However, it needs a much clearer plan in improving the quality of new regulations in order to ensure a fair and transparent process. Furthermore, the equitization progress seems to be disappointing since only 52 SOEs were equitized in 2016. In this context, to ensure the equitization efficiency, it is urgent to address the impact of these remaining issues on project’s viability and aim at the highest level of risk management. Finally, Decision 58 represents a good opportunity for EU companies to engage in large- scale PPP projects. However, investors need to carefully conduct a due diligence before any investment.

***

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. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Thank you!

 

 

VIETNAM SOLAR POWER – THE FIRST OFFICIAL PPA – VIETNAM INVESTMENT REVIEW INTERVIEWING DR. OLIVER MASSMANN

1. Could you point out for me the good point of this solar PPA?

While the previous draft solar PPA does not require the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) conversion between USD and VND be according to the exchange rate at the time of payment, this newly issued solar PPA repeats the language in Decision No. 11/2017/QD-TTg (Decision 11) that the FiT will be adjusted according to the fluctuation in the VND/USD exchange rate. This is consistent with what is stipulated in Decision 11.
In addition, I note that while the FiT for power output from on-grid projects is adjusted according to the fluctuation in the VND/USD exchange rate, meaning at any time during the year, it is not the same for rooftop projects. Instead, the mentioned FiT for excessive power output generated from rooftop projects remains the same throughout the first year of operation, and the new FiT for the next year will be adjusted based on the announced VND/ USD exchange rate of the last working day of the previous year.

2. Are there any concerns of investors that the solar PPA has not solved?

The rights of the investors are not fully protected in the following cases:
– when EVN is in the process of installing equipment, or making repairs, replacement, inspection or examination of the grid connection of the seller’s power plant;
– when the transmission grid or the distribution grid connected to EVN’s grid has a problem or grid equipment directly connected to EVN’s transmission grid or the distribution grid has a problem; and
– when EVN’s grid needs support to recover after the incident in accordance with the provisions of operation of the national power system and the standards, technical regulations of the electric industry.
– allocation of feeding points into the grid
It is quite risky for the producer if the output is ready to be fed to the grid but the connection is not available to do so. Absent a clear indication of whether the Solar PPA is a ‘take or pay” agreement, investors will find it difficult to secure and ensure the profits and revenue of their projects.
• No international arbitration dispute resolution clause
• No Government guarantee to enhance the credit of EVN as the sole off-taker;
• No provision addressing the risks of changes in applicable laws; and
• The Solar PPA is required to follow a specific template, which is not bankable.

3. Is this PPA solar bankable or not?

This PPA is not bankable due to reasons specified in 2).

4. In your opinion, how Vietnam government should do in order to reach their target for solar power capacity in the coming to time?

There is an increasing interest of foreign investors in the sector, proven by the fact that there are many solar projects with total capacity of 10,000 MW registered with the MOIT. However, not many of them have submitted the pre-feasibility study to the MOIT for consideration. There are many reasons behind this, but the most important ones are the lack of Government guarantee of EVN’s payment obligation in the PPA and currency hedging. Thus, the Government should consider a mechanism where EVN has to fulfil its payment obligation and the investors are ensured that they will be able to remit their profits abroad in foreign currency.

***
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. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.
Thank you!

Vietnam Wind Power is taking off – The new Feed in Tariff – what you must know:

Decision No. 37 of the Prime Minister on supporting regime for wind power projects provides an FIT of 7.8 UScent/ kWh. This FIT applies to two current projects in operation in Binh Thuan, namely Phu Lac and Binh Thuan No. 1. For Bac Lieu near shore wind project, the FIT follows a special financial regime, being 9.8 UScent/kWh. However, with the current FIT, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) opines that it will be difficult for these plants to recover their investment capital.

Thus, the MOIT has recently proposed the Government to increase wind FIT for inland wind power plants to 8.77 UScent/ kWh and to 9.97 UScent/kWh for near shore wind projects. This proposal is expected to attract more investors in the market as well as create incentive for current projects whose pre-feasibility reports have been approved by the MOIT to come into real operation.

***

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 Development in Vietnam – what you must know:

 

  1. What can you tell me about the policies Vietnam now has in place to support solar development?

The legal framework is almost complete. I expect the solar PPA template will be issued within this year so that the investors have full guidance to develop projects in Vietnam. However, as I see from the recent draft solar PPA, it repeats the same mistakes in other renewable PPAs that make projects not bankable. This issue needs to be sorted out soon so that solar development will be on fast track in near future.

  1. Total PV installations in Vietnam are still quite low — what has been holding back development?

Because the latest Prime Minister’s Decision promulgating solar FIT was only issued on 11 April 2017. In addition, solar energy is still expensive and less stable throughout the year compared with other sources of energy. Bankability of the PPA is also a worth-noting issue.

Bankability of PPAs has been achieved for other power projects in the past in Vietnam. We are now working on solutions for the solar power sector. It can be done.

  1. How do you see the solar market evolving through the end of this decade, both in terms of manufacturing and project development?

I foresee a rapid development in the sector. This is due to the Government’s change of focus on clean energy and environment protection policies. I can see many foreign investors visiting Vietnam recently to look for investment opportunities and many of them have managed to reach a deal with local partners.

  1. Where are the opportunities in Vietnamese PV and how should prospective investors and developers approach the market?

Vietnam is an untapped market for solar. The Government offers many good incentives to attract foreign investment, for example, exemption of land rental within 3 years from the operation date, CIT 10%, etc. Investors and developers should first establish close contact with local authorities and conduct careful due diligence on local partners. BOT is the most recommended investment form. In addition, investors and developers may consider taking part in different segments such as equipment supply, solar panels manufacturing, or assembling, etc.

  1. What can you tell me about the availability of financing?

IFC and ADB are the most active financiers. Local banks are also more and more interested in lending to renewable projects in general and solar projects in particular. However, due to poor performance and credit of EVN, the financing resources are still limited. We recommend MIGA (Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency) support for on-grid utility scale solar power projects (above 50 MW).

***

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 Power – Breaking News Update First draft of the solar Power Purchase Agreement released by the Ministry of Industry and Trade

Following the issuance of Decision No. 11/2017/QD-TTg of the Prime Minister on mechanism for encouragement of development of solar power in Vietnam (Decision 11), the Ministry of Industry and Trade released the first draft of a Circular guiding the Decision last month (Draft Circular). The Circular is aimed at providing regulations on formulation, approval and amendment of the national as well as provincial power master plan. In addition, the draft solar Power Purchase Agreement (Draft PPA), which is of great interest for many foreign investors, is also provided in the Circular as a mandatory template for future solar power projects with only minor changes expected to be permitted during the contract negotiations.

In essence, the Draft PPA is almost the same as current applicable PPAs for renewable projects. This creates bankable issues for solar projects and a hindrance to foreign investors planning an investment in the sector.

Feed-in-Tariff (FiT)

The draft Circular repeats the solar FiT for power output from on-grid projects and excessive power output generated from rooftop projects specified in Decision 11 to be VND2,086/kWh or US 9.35 cents/kWh. However, unlike Decision 11, the Draft PPA does not require that the conversion between USD and VND be according to the exchange rate at the time of payment.

EVN’s rights and obligations as the sole off-taker

EVN is delegated to purchase all power output generated from solar power projects pursuant to terms and conditions of the draft PPA within 20 years.

It is noteworthy that the Draft Circular and the Draft PPA list out certain circumstances where EVN is not obliged to purchase power as negotiated with the seller, for example:

  1. when EVN is in the process of installing equipment, or making repairs, replacement, inspection or examination of the grid connection of the seller’s power plant;
  2. when the transmission grid or the distribution grid connected to EVN’s grid has a problem or grid equipment directly connected to EVN’s transmission grid or the distribution grid has a problem; and
  3. when EVN’s grid needs support to recover after the incident in accordance with the provisions of operation of the national power system and the standards, technical regulations of the electric industry.

Unfortunately, the current Draft PPA does not include provisions protecting the interests of the seller in the abovementioned circumstances. It is quite risky for the producer if the output is ready to be fed to the grid but the connection is not available to do so. Absent a clear indication of whether the Draft PPA is a ‘take or pay” agreement, investors will find it difficult to secure and ensure the profits and revenue of their projects.

Dispute resolution

The Draft PPA allows either party to the agreement to bring the dispute to local courts for litigation and other energy-related state bodies of Vietnam (General Directorate of Energy and the Electricity Regulatory Authority of Vietnam) for mediation and resolution.

The Draft PPA does not provide for international arbitration to be an option to resolve the dispute. This could be a great concern for foreign investors, especially those of large utility scale projects.

Other key issues of concern

  • No Government guarantee to enhance the credit of EVN as the sole off-taker;
  • No provision addressing the risks of changes in applicable laws; and
  • The Draft PPA is required to follow a specific template, which is not bankable.

While the current Draft PPA leaves certain key issues unresolved, we note that this is only the first draft. Thus, it will be subject to potential revisions before its official adoption. We believe that with lessons learnt from the PPA for other renewable projects, the Ministry of Industry and Trade will complete the Draft PPA towards a mutually beneficial agreement for both the seller and the purchaser.

How to avoid EVN – The 30 MW rule

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 means if the project is off-grid, there will be no requirement to negotiate with EVN. Therefore, if you are new to the market, an off-grid 30MW project or less is a smart option to test the water. Once you have built up your track record, you can go for larger scale projects.

***

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.

 

 

Vietnam – Wind Power Breaking News – One of the first foreign financed Wind PPAs signed – Duane Morris advised on this transaction – What you must know

 

EAB New Energy GmbH (“EAB”), a German privately held SME with business activities around the world (Asia, Latin America, South Africa), engaged Duane Morris Vietnam LLC to advise on one of the very first privately financed Wind Energy Power Purchase Agreements for a wind power project in Vietnam – the “Mui Dinh” wind project (SPV el-wind Mui Dinh LLC) with a total investment value at final stage of about 60 Million USD.

EAB, in close co-operation with its subsidiary in Vietnam – WPV Wind Power Vietnam LLC, has received the Construction Permit for the wind power plant in Ninh Thuan province and will start the wind farm construction works in due course. Duane Morris Vietnam LLC advised EAB in the negotiation of the Wind Power Purchase Agreement with the Electricity of Vietnam (“EVN”) to connect into to the national electricity and sell electricity to EVN (the “Project”). The Wind Power Purchase Agreement was signed on 01 February 2016. This is one of the first signed Wind Power PPA in Vietnam and EAB is one of the first foreign companies with this success.

Given the fact that Vietnam’s wind energy potential is highly appreciated by investors in comparison to its ASEAN neighbours, and very good for building large wind power plants, the success of this Project is considered to pave the way for development of another 40 wind power development in Vietnam, roughly 513,360 megawatts.

This is the beginning of a sizeable privately financed wind energy sector in Vietnam.

Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you want to know more details on the above or need our assistance in your project. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

 

 

Lawyer in Vietnam Oliver Massmann THE WORLD BANK REPORT ON RETAIL TARIFF INCREASE SOLUTIONS TO RECOVER ELECTRICITY OF VIETNAM

For the past few years, Vietnam has made the transition from a predominantly agricultural to a mixed economy with substantial development of commercial and industrial activities. Rapid growth in population and improvements in living standards together with the Government’s effort to improve access to electricity throughout the country have led to growing increase in the demand for electricity. This now poses a major challenge for Vietnam to maintain sustained growth of the power sector and to achieve energy security. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s electricity demand continues growing at double-digit number. Electricity infrastructure capacity is limited, operation of certain power projects has been delayed, and private investors are reluctant to invest in the sector due to their concern of low rates of return on equity and low feed-in-tariff. These factors, among others, have left the Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) with no option but to increase debts to cover its operation needs. This article studies and proposes some solutions to improve EVN’s operation in the coming years.

Current situation of the Vietnam’s power market
As of December 31, 2015, the total generation capacity in Vietnam’s interconnected power system was 141.34 billion kWh, an increase of 11.6% compared to 2014. During the period of 2011-2015, electricity generation output increases by 11%/ year on average. Meanwhile, according to World Bank’s report in 2014, Vietnam is one of the most energy intensive economies in the world, and more energy intensive than other countries in the Southeast Asia at the same level of development.[1] Electricity demand has grown at a rapid pace averaging 15% per year from 2008 to 2010 before dropping to 9% in 2011 due to the macroeconomic situation.[2] Electricity demand is expected to be twice as much as GDP growth between 2014 and 2020. The Power Development Plan VII (PDP VII) projects a strong increase in power demand to 2030.[3]

Amended PDP VII sets the target of electricity output in 2020 to be 235 -245 billion kWh, 352 – 379 billion kWh in 2025 and 506 – 559 billion kWh in 2030. In this amended PDP VII, in 2020, the targeted total capacity of power plants is 60,000 MW, in which electricity output from renewable energy sources will account for 9.9%. These numbers in 2025 will be 96,500 MW and 12.5% respectively. In 2030, a target of 129,500 MW being the total capacity of power plants and 21% of electricity output generated from renewable energy sources is also set.

Total investment in the power sector was US$2.6 billion in 2012 and slightly increased in 2013. This is relatively small compared to the investment requirements of about US$7.5 billion per year. Meanwhile, the Vietnam Government as well as state-owned enterprises in the sector is unlikely to invest more due to prohibition from investing in non-core businesses by state-owned enterprises. In addition, the total investment cost from 2014-2020 corresponding to the capacity requirements totals US$53 billion. Thus, most of the expected total investment during 2014- 2020, which is of about US$25 billion should come from private sector. EVN will then still need a substantial investment program, which is hard to be financed until 2020.

The role of EVN in the power market and its financial problems

EVN and its subsidiaries play a vital role in the power sector. Key activities of the subsidiaries are generation, transmission and distribution. EVN acts as the only off-taker from the generators. It incurred significant financial losses in both 2010 and 2011.

EVN’s operation results in 2012 were much better, from a loss of 12% of income in 2011 to a profit of 14% of income. The profitable results maintained in 2013, although the result in 2013 was not as good as in 2012 and investment was still far below the level of needs. EVN has also had a high and rising level of borrowing in foreign currency. EVN is in a total debt of VND86 trillion in 2007, increasing to VND284 trillion in 2013. Total debt is expected to increase from US$14.6 billion in 2014 to US$28.2 billion in 2020.

The reasons behind EVN’s unstable, inefficient and risky operation are largely beyond EVN’s control. In particular, we have to name hydrology, substantial devaluation in the Vietnamese dong against EVN’s major borrowing currencies, lack of strong Government’s commitments in adopting tariffs to cover full cost of power provision as main challenges to the power sector in general and EVN in particular.
In contrast, EVN’s subsidiaries in generation, transmission and distribution have a quite strong operational performance and are well managed. However, low tariffs and low level of equity have put them under considerable financial constraints.

These financial and investment challenges could be solved by appropriate actions from EVN, the Ministry of Industry and Trade – the parent ministry and the private sector. In the worst scenario that EVN could not fulfil its financial obligations, the Ministry of Finance – the guarantor of EVN’s loans must bear the payment responsibility for the loans, resulting in possible decrease in investment and increased levels of supply interruption accordingly.

EVN is not under immediate threat of insolvency. However, if the current delay in payment to its fuel suppliers due to a prolonged delay in increasing tariffs and a series of years with low rainfall continue, EVN could be placed under a much more serious financial pressure. Where its liabilities exceed its assets, insolvency is unavoidable.

EVN’s challenges and solutions

Challenges Solutions
Achieving sufficient level of private investment in the power sector to meet investment needs (1) Improving regulations on guarantees on the remittance of funds, licensing procedures, project appraisal mechanisms, negotiation process with EVN and reducing the numbers of required permits as much as possible;
(2) Maintaining dialogue with private sector;
(3) Improving the MOIT’s capacity to manage IPP projects; and
(4) Divesting GENCOs.
Addressing the current low retail tariffs to enable EVN to improve the electricity system, which in turn improves the reliability of power supply (1) Setting PPAs in line with international standards;
(2) Allowing market prices for new generation investment;
(3) Amending current regulations to attract more private investment; and
(4) Carrying out electricity tariff adjustments to the extent necessary. The tariff adjustment path should be phased over the next 3-4 years (about 40% in total) so that EVN could achieve full cost recovery and financial stability by 2018.
Improving operational efficiency at EVN (1) Appointing a senior EVN leader to coordinate among ministries and agencies to move the financial recovery plan forward;
(2) Better technical management by (i) maintaining a reasonable number of working staff to improve labor productivity; (ii) making use of older coal plants during poor rainfall season and efficiently managing capital program; (iii) enhancing service quality;
(3) Fully unbundling EVN into independent companies;
(4) Disposing non-core assets and focusing only on core business;
(5) Rehabilitating assets; and
(6) Improving governance.
Enhancing EVN’s capacity to manage financing risks (1) Increasing revenues arising from the implementation of cost-based tariffs;
(2) Negotiating with lenders to extend the loan terms;
(3) Establishing a stabilization fund to manage the risks that EVN faces; and
(4) Reducing foreign exchange risks.
We note that these above recommendations are not mutually exclusive. In other words, implementation of any single recommendation could facilitate the implementation and effectiveness of the others. Moreover, these recommendations are not exhausted considering the on-going changes in Government policies and power market situation.
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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.

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