Tag Archives: ppa

VIETNAM – SOLAR POWER – MOIT PUBLISHES DRAFT CIRCULAR ON PROJECT DEVELOPMENT AND STANDARDIZED POWER PURCHASE AGREEMENTS FOR SOLAR POWER PROJECTS

The Ministry of Industry and Trade recently published a Draft Circular on Project Development and Standardized Power Purchase Agreement for both grid-connected and rooftop solar power projects (“the Draft”). After publishing new solar power purchase prices under Decision 13/2020/QD-TTg (“Decision 13”), the Draft is another move of MOIT to replace Circular 16 that failed to address necessary changes in PPA terms. The Draft is anticipated to takes effect in June 2020, but note that there’s not yet any official announcement on this. Also, with Decision 13’s price being effective until 31 December 2020 only, this raised questions on the effectiveness of laws and regulations in Vietnam on in the long run.

Notable provisions of the Draft Circular:

v Upon specific conditions and technical requirements of each individual rooftop solar power system, the Seller and the Buyer shall decide the chronology of items and tasks implementation sequence.

v Beside the contents stipulated in the standardized PPA, the Seller and the Buyer are only allowed to supplement contents for clarification of responsibilities and power of each party. Supplementary contents must be consistent with contents of the standardized PPA.

v If grid-connected solar power projects and rooftop solar power systems have commercial operation date between, and including, 1 July 2019 and the effective date of the Draft, the Seller and the Buyer are allowed to revise and sign the PPA based on the new standardized PPA in the Draft.

v Operational plan

a) Before or on the date of performance of the PPA for grid-connected projects, the Seller provides the Buyer with the chart of annual power generation capacity at the connection point by months in line with the appraised design;

b) Before every November 30th, the Seller provides the Buyer with the power generation plan of the following year, including:

_ Monthly operational plan in the year (power output and available capacity);
_The monthly plant repair and maintenance schedule in the year (if any).

Overall, the new standardized PPA for grid-connected solar power projects does not mitigate the problems already existed in the current template under Circular 16, namely:

v The PPA does not impose a clear “take or pay” obligation on Buyer and so does not assure Seller a guaranteed revenue stream and adequate return. Buyer has the right not to purchase power in certain circumstances (Seller is in breach of the Agreement, Buyer is instructed by the regulator not to purchase power, force majeure). We note that this is not realistic in practice and note that the main issue here is curtailment, which mostly occurred due to overload of grid. Thus to alleviate this problem, Buyer and Seller need to undertake thorough grid studies to ensure the effectiveness of the project in the future.

v Electricity purchase price is the one outlined in Article 5 of Decision 13/2020/QD-CP, which is applicable to projects that obtained Decision on Investment Policy before 23 November 2019 and have COD between 1 July 2019 and 31 December 2020. With the deadline approaching by the end of this year, investors have been hurry to finalize every steps of the project as per the approved schedule with EVN, and the attractive FiT rate also attracts foreign investors to invest in Vietnam fast. However, in the past few months, regions where there’s high level of concentration of solar power projects, have experienced problems of grid-overcapacity is anticipated to be solved by 2021. This issue leads to the question whether the signing of PPA with developers at this point is beneficial if due to grid-overload, power plants will not be able to operate at full capacity which will lead to machine erosion/breakdown and financial loss to investors?

v The PPA provides simple provisions relating to Force Majeure Event and does not distinguish natural force majeure event (Non-Governmental Force Majeure Event), and force majeure event due to political issues (Governmental Force Majeure Event). As EVN is a State-owned company, there may be possibility that EVN relies on Government Event to repudiate its obligation under the PPA, especially payment obligations. Accordingly, it is recommended to distinguish these two types of force majeure events with a view to ensuring that Governmental Force Majeure Event – including change in law or tax regimes – will not be used by EVN as an excuse to its obligations.

v Regarding compensation of damages, the violating party must demonstrate damages and consequential loss, which is quiet difficult as these will mostly based on estimation. As a result, it may be preferable not to terminate the PPA in case of breach by the Buyer and instead continue to insist upon performance without triggering this cap on compensation. In that case, the Buyer would be obliged pursuant to general Vietnam law principles to compensate Seller for damages directly caused by the breach (including loss of profits). In this case, there is no specific cap and the obligation would be to compensate for actual direct losses caused. However, this obligation is not expressed in the PPA as an “indemnity” obligation, but rather a general Vietnam law obligation to compensate following breach of contract. The party claiming the breach would be obliged to prove the losses and also to mitigate losses.

v There is currently no precedent of Buyer being sued for damages under the standard form PPA. The dispute resolution terms of the PPA expressly provide for local dispute resolution and, as a matter of practice, this makes it very challenging to claim against Buyer.

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Please do not hesitate to contact the author Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, Member to the Supervisory Board of PetroVietnam Insurance JSC and the only foreign lawyer presenting in Vietnamese language to members of the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF VIETNAM.

3 Things About Vietnam’s Updated Legal Framework for Biomass Power Projects

Despite abundantly available biomass feedstock of agricultural origin, ranging from sugar bagasse, wood chip to rice husks and stalks, biomass as a source of renewable energy does not seem to have received the same amount of attention from the government of Vietnam as solar or wind power. It took the government more than six years to acknowledge the modest results of the current incentives package and adopt measures to give a new push to the development of biomass power plants. This was done on 5 March 2020 when the Prime Minister issued Decision No. 08/2020/QD-TTg (“Decision 08“) amending Decision No. 24/2014/QD-TTg dated 24 March 2014 (“Decision 24“) on support mechanisms for the development of biomass power projects in Vietnam. Decision 08 introduces a number of important changes which will take effect on 25 April 2020.

Increase of the Feed-in-Tariffs (“FiT”)

The FiT for electricity produced by combined heat and power (“CHP”) biomass power plants will increase from USD 5.8 cents per kWh to USD 7.03 cents (VND 1,634) per kWh.

The government has also abandoned the use of avoided cost schedules (calculated based on the cost of electricity produced by coal-fired power plants) published annually for determination of the electricity purchase price from non-CHP biomass electricity producers. The FiT for these projects is set at USD 8.47 cents (VND 1,968).

The FiTs are exclusive of value-added tax and are adjusted according to USD/VND exchange rate. The new FiTs will be also benefit the biomass power projects which have started operating before 5 March 2020 for the remaining terms of their power purchase agreements (“PPAs”).

Technical standards for electricity generation equipment

Decision 08 introduces a new requirement to comply with technical standards applicable to biomass electricity generation equipment and quality norms applicable to electricity produced by biomass power plants. Similar requirements already exist in recent regulations applicable to solar and wind power projects. The technical standards and norms will be elaborated by the Ministry of Industry and Trade (“MOIT”) which is also responsible for the issuance of a new model PPA for biomass projects.

Possibility of alternative off-takers

Under Decision 08 Electricity of Vietnam (“EVN”) (directly or through its authorised group entities) remains the sole off-taker of the electricity generated using biomass. However, the new decision also opens the door to “organisations assuming the rights and obligations” of EVN (or its relevant group entities) to become biomass electricity off-takers. This new development is in line with the government’s road-map for the liberalisation of Vietnam’s electricity markets (wholesale and then retail) by 2025. It is not clear whether this would improve the bankability of biomass PPAs, since EVN, as a State-owned enterprise, still enjoys strong government support while such backing may not be available to other off-takers in the future.

The possibility of selling electricity produced by biomass power plants directly to end users is not contemplated by the government at this stage. A recently published draft regulation on pilot Direct PPAs does not seem to include biomass power projects.

The hope is that above changes will make biomass power projects more attractive for investors. Whether the government’s target to increase the share of electricity produced from biomass to 2.1 percent of the total generated electricity by 2030 set out in the Revised Power Development Master Plan VII is achievable still depends a great deal on the new biomass PPA and technical requirements for biomass power projects to be issued by the MOIT in the coming months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crunch time for PM’s decision on solar FIT2

In a 6 Feb 2020 report to the PM, the MOIT shares views received from the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Finance on the long-awaited new FIT regime for solar projects. Interestingly, a new option has emerged: that FIT 2 could apply to all projects approved in principle prior to 23 November 2019 and that reach COD by 31 December 2020. While December 2020 is still very close and thus a practical limit, this option is still markedly broader than the MOIT’s earlier proposal that only projects that had commenced construction (with very narrow criteria of what that means) prior to 23 November 2019 (and reach COD by 31 December 2020) should be entitled to FIT 2.

If the PM accepts this new option it would significantly increase the number of already-approved solar projects potentially eligible for FIT 2. that would be welcome news for approx. 40 projects currently in FIT limbo.

With this document, it appears that all involved ministries and other stakeholders such as EVN have been formally consulted and their opinions formally shared with the PM. The ball is firmly in the PM’s court now.

See the original text of the 6 Feb report here: FIT 2

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.

Lawyer in Vietnam Dr. Oliver Massmann – RENEWABLE ENERGY AND FEED IN TARIFFS – QUO VADIS – INTERVIEW WITH MERGERMARKET

1. Dear Dr. Massmann, a government official recently stated that the MoIT probably had enough solar projects in the pipeline, explaining for that fact that such new FIT will be much more lower than the current one (as quoted by Mr. Nguyen Ninh Hai, Deputy Director of New and Renewable Energy Department, MOIT), do you agree with this statement and why? Is there any other reason that you think make sense for planning a new upcoming FiT for solar?

OM: The number of approved solar projects has gone far beyond the target capacity in the National Power Master Plan VII (as amended). The Government has to issue a new national power master plan (PDP VIII) to reflect the new target following the market status. In addition, the grid does not have enough capacity to absorb all output from solar projects at the moment and has to be upgraded. This process should take around 1-5 years. The current FiT is also very attractive to foreign investors and high compared to some other countries. For these reasons, the Government has to issue a new FIT to slow down the development of solar projects, thus having time to improve the grid and complete the legal framework.

2. With the market now anticipating the new FiT for solar, which is underway, what is the current situation of those solar projects seeking to be the last one to enjoy the 9.35 US cents feed in tariff? Do you think the anticipation for the new FiT has triggered/ or will trigger a rise in deal value for renewables in Vietnam in the meantime? Perhaps in Ninh Thuan province? If so, by roughly how much %?

OM: Solar projects seeking to be the last one to enjoy the current FIT now have to accelerate their development process so that they will come into commercial operation by 30 June 2019. If they cannot (and this is the current situation of many solar projects), the investors tend to delay the construction and wait to see what will happen after 30 June. I am aware that the new FIT is only one of the options, besides auction or a hybrid option. The Government has not yet decided on the final model. Ninh Thuan is already overloaded and investors should look for opportunities in other provinces.

3. Besides the new FiT, what changes would you like to see in the new PPA for projects coming into operation after 30 June 2019? Can you rank these changes from most needed, needed to have, and good to have for the long-term outlook of M&A deals in renewables? Can you briefly explain the reasons for the ranking as well?

OM: The bankability of the PPA is of utmost importance. Without this, the investors find it very hard obtaining financing for their projects. Another change I expect is a clear indication of whether the PPA is a take-or-pay agreement. This will help investors secure and ensure the profits and revenue of their projects. The last change but also of not less importance is a dispute resolution clause which provides 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.

4. From talking to a market source, the current FiT rate for wind energy projects is profitable enough for investors and he himself as an investor doesn’t want the FiT rate for wind energy projects to go up any more. What would be your argument for the hike in wind FiT and how would it benefit the long-term outlook of M&A deals in wind energy projects?

OM: I believe the reason for a recent increase in the wind FiT is to improve profitability of the projects, help investors to recover the investment capital more quickly and arrange a better financing deal with the banks. I note that the PPA is only for 20 years, so if it takes too long to recover the capital, together with the high maintenance cost after that, the investors will no longer be interested in keeping the projects. The new wind FIT will make wind projects more attractive to investors for acquisitions as there is still room for further development after the projects have recovered their investment capital.

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.

What’s next for green energy in Vietnam – 4 steps to the future

Now that the United States has retreated from the Paris Climate Accords, and relinquished its leadership role in the fight against climate change, it remains to be seen whether smaller nations will stick to their pledges of greenhouse gas reduction.

Eyes are on countries like Vietnam to see if they keep to their commitments or revert to the pursuit of cheap and dirty coal-powered solutions for their energy needs.

Vietnam, in particular, faces some of the biggest risks. Global warming is a major threat to the country, where rising sea levels are predicted to swallow up nearly half of the Mekong Delta, a crucial area for domestic food production, in coming decades.

Currently, coal-fired plants in Vietnam contribute to thousands of premature deaths and air quality in big cities is getting worse. In 2017, the capital Hanoi enjoyed just 38 days of clean air, with contaminant levels four times those deemed acceptable by the World Health Organization.

Business as usual?

Unlike Obama, the Trump administration seems unlikely to apply any real pressure on other countries to pursue clean energy or combat climate change, and so it will be up to domestic forces to really push for change.

According to the government’s current national plan, electricity generated from coal will rise five-fold between now and 2030, and GHG emissions will increase in lockstep. This is at odds with Vietnam’s pledge to the Paris Climate Accord, which targets 8 percent emissions reduction by 2030, and could rise as high as a 25 percent reduction with international support, such as financing for solar panels and wind turbines.

Energy and environment experts worry that the country’s next national power development plan, which is under revision this year, could hold to those figures or, worse, embrace a more aggressive coal strategy.

The story, however, is not all doom and gloom. Vietnam does have the potential to become a regional clean energy leader, if only the country’s energy development and investment environment can be reshaped. Business involvement in this process will be crucial, as the commercial and industrial sectors consume more than 60 percent of Vietnam’s electricity.

Khanh Nguy Thi, founder of the Vietnamese nonprofit Green Innovation and Development Centre, recently won the 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize for her work convincing state agencies to increase their use of renewable energy. Her efforts were instrumental in halting the construction of two hydropower plants in a national park and securing a 20,000 MW reduction in planned coal expansion.

Government leaders have also demonstrated a desire to utilise Vietnam’s abundant sunlight and over 2,026 miles of coastline in the pursuit of renewable energy.

4 solutions for a sustainable energy sector

Clearly, clean energy opportunities are available, the question is how to encourage more investment. Obstacles persist with the regulatory environment, preventing the country from tapping its potential in this area. Here are four small changes which could bridge the gap between policy and implementation, ensuring the green energy dream becomes a reality:

  1. Streamline regulations regarding Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) and support the use of Direct Power Purchase Agreements (DPPA).

Negotiating standard PPAs with EVN, the sole power purchaser, is time-consuming, which cause rising total project costs. The streamlining of such deals would render them more attractive to power producers and cut lengthy approval time, which often leads to execution delays or complete abandonment of projects.

USAID and Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade are working together to enable private sector electricity buyers and renewable energy providers to enter into DPPA. This would allow industrial energy buyers to purchase electricity directly from independent renewable energy producers.

Such a mechanism would help companies enjoy constant power prices and ultimately save power costs. By signing a long-term DPPA to buy power from a clean energy generator, businesses can have a constant power price, reducing risk and helping firms establish long-term business plans with no surprises down the road.

  1. Improve the transparency of electricity rate forecasting.

Electricity prices will have to increase in order for Vietnam’s national utility to finance new energy projects, but the schedule for such increases remains vague. Better transparency of expected price increases will allow buyers and investors to more accurately value fixed-cost renewable energy contracts, which can offer some price protection.

Additionally, improving the quality and sourcing of data on renewable energy can help clarify for investors available locations, infrastructure capabilities and government targets, as well as other information to help reduce risk on investment decisions.

  1. Encourage supporting industries.

Supporting industries plays a crucial role in the development and adoption of renewable energy technologies. The government should promote domestic SMEs through capital subsidy and incentives such as tax breaks and preferential loans. A competitive supporting industry will help in reducing the tariff and investment costs for renewable projects, nurturing their development as part of Vietnam’s energy sector.

  1. Develop a renewable energy model for industrial parks.

Given the expectation that industrial areas will continue to play a big role in Vietnamese manufacturing and commerce, these parks are an important place to explore renewable solutions. Aggregating demand from tenants in the parks would help scale clean energy and make it more affordable for all.

Green power pioneer

Renewable energy has the capacity to power Vietnam and with the right policies in place, the country can deliver affordable, safe and clean power for continued economic growth.

Vietnamese businesses and the government could chart an unprecedented course for clean energy, and represent a role model for Southeast Asia — if they can address some key barriers. The changes detailed above would help drive the country’s energy transition toward a sustainable, greener future, and demonstrate that the fight against climate change can continue without American leadership.

For more information about Vietnam’s renewable 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.

Rechtsanwalt in Vietnam Dr. Oliver Massmann Solarstrom läuft an – große PPA Neuigkeiten – Der Text des PPA ist veröffentlicht – Wie man damit arbeitet:

Nach Entscheidung Nr. 11/2017/QD-TTg des Premierministers über die Mechanismen fuer die Förderung der Entwicklung des Solarstroms in Vietnam (Decision 11) vom 12. September 2017, hat das Ministerium fuer Industrie und Handel offiziell das Rundschreiben Nr. 16/2017/TT-BCT (Circular 16) für die Ausführung der Entscheidung herausgebracht. Circular 16 zielt auf das zur Verfügung stellen von Regulierungen fuer Formulierung, Genehmigung und Anpassung des nationalen, sowie provinziellen Strom Master Plans ab. Zudem wird der Solarstrom Kaufvertrag (Solar PPA) in Circular 16 zur verpflichtenden Vorlage für zukünftige Stromnetz -und Dachzellensolarprojekte und damit von grossem Interesse für ausländische Investoren. Ferner wird erwartet, dass nur kleine Änderungen während der Vertragsverhandlungen zugelassen werden.

Im Kern ist der Solar PPA fast vollstaendig dem momentanen PPAs fuer Projekte erneuerbarer Energien gleichend. Das laesst Probleme fuer die Bankfaehigkeit von Solarprojekten entstehen und ist ein Hindernis fuer Investoren in der Planung einer Investition in diesem Sektor.

Feed-in-Tariff (FIT)

Circular 16 wiederholt den Solar FIT für die Stromproduktion eines Stromnetzprojekts und für überschüssige Stromproduktion von Dachzellenprojekten. Dieser soll laut Decision 11 bei 2086 VND/kWh oder bei 9,35 US cents/kWh liegen. Dieser Tarif wird nur bei Stromnetzprojekten und Dachzellenprojekten angewendet, deren kommerzielle Nutzung vor dem 30. Juni 2019 beginnt. Der Tarif gilt fuer 20 Jahre ab dem Beginn der kommerziellen Stromerzeugung. Wir heben hervor, dass der FIT für die Stromproduktion von Stromnetzprojekten nach dem Wechselkurs zwischen VND/USD angepasst wird, dies aber nicht für die Dachzellenprojekte gilt. Stattdessen bleibt der FIT fuer überschüssige Stromproduktion von Dachzellenprojekten im ersten Jahr gleich und der neue FIT des nächsten Jahres wird basierend auf dem Wechselkurs von VND/USD des letzten Arbeitstages des Vorjahres, angepasst.

EVNs Rechte und Pflichten als einziger Stromabnehmer

EVN ist nach den Bedingungen und Regelungen des Solar PPA für 20 Jahre verpflichtet, den gesamten produzierten Strom zu kaufen, der von Solarstromprojekten erzeugt wird. Es ist erwähnenswert, dass Circular 16 und der Solar PPA die Kaufpflicht EVNs unter bestimmten Umständen aufhebt, wie zB:

  1. Wenn EVN Ausrüstung installiert, Reparaturen durchführt, Komponenten ersetzt oder bei Inspektion und Prüfung der Netzverbindung vom Kraftwerk des Verkäufers.
  2. Wenn die Stromtransmission oder Verteilung zu EVNs Netz ein Problem hat oder bei direkter Verbindung mit EVNs Netz oder dem Verteilungsnetz und dort ein Problem auftritt; und
  3. Wenn EVNs Netz Unterstützung bei der Wiederherstellung nach einem Vorfall benötigt, gemäß den Bestimmungen ueber die Operation des Nationalen Stromsystems -und Standards und gemäß den technischen Regulierungen der Elektro-Industrie.

Leider enthält der Solar PPA keine Vorkehrungen zum Schutz der Interessen des Stromverkaeufers in den oben genannten Fällen. Fuer den Stromerzeuger ist es sehr riskant, wenn der Strom bereit steht, aber die Netzverbindung für die Verteilung nicht verfügbar ist. In Abwesenheit einer klaren Bestimmung des Solar PPA ein ,,take or pay“ Abkommen zu sein, werden es Investoren schwer finden die Gewinne und Umsätze ihrer Projekte zu sichern und zu gewährleisten.

Streitschlichtung

Der Solar PPA erlaubt es jeder Vertragspartei den Streit zu einem lokalen Gericht oder einer anderen energiebezogenen staatlichen Koerperschaft Vietnams (Generaldirektorat fuer Energie und die Elektrizitaets Regulierungsbehoerde von Vietnam) fuer dessen Vermittlung oder Lösung zu tragen. Der Solar PPA gewährt keine internationale Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit fuer eine Streitresolution. Das könnte eine grosse Sorge für ausländische Investoren darstellen, vor allem solche von Grossversorgungsprojekten.

Andere Schluesselprobleme als Grund zur Sorge

  • Keine Regierungsgarantie für die Verbesserung des Ansehens von EVN als einzigen Stromabnehmer;
  • Keine Regulierung greift das Risiko für Gesetzesaenderungen des anwendbaren Rechts auf; und
  • Der Solar PPA muss einer bestimmten Vorlage folgen, die nicht bankfaehig ist.

Zusammenfassung

Trotz der oben erwähnten Probleme hinsichtlich der Bankfähigkeit des Solar PPA, die der Probleme der anderen PPAs erneuerbarer Energien gleicht, haben Wir unseren Klienten bei verschiedenen Grossstromprojekten assistieren können – dies auch im Bereich erneuerbarer Energien mit dem Gewinn der Bankfähigkeit des PPAs mit EVN. Wir glauben mit fester Überzeugung, dass unsere Erfolgsbilanz Investoren helfen und zum gleichen Ergebnis bei Projekten mit dem Solar PPA führen wird.

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Falls Sie irgendwelche Fragen haben bzw. Details erfahren wollen, zoegern Sie bitte nicht Dr. Oliver Massmann unter omassmann@duanemorris.com zu kontaktieren. Dr. Oliver Massmann ist der General Direktor von Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Vielen Dank!

 

 

 

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 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.

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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!

Solar deals despite doubts: bankable or not, investors dive in

Foreign interest in Vietnam’s solar sector had surged after the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) announced a solar feed-in tariff (FiT) and a draft solar PPA earlier this year.  Concerns over the bankability of the proposed agreement have done little to dampen enthusiasm, with a number of players eager to get a slice of a Southeast Asian success story.

Continue reading Solar deals despite doubts: bankable or not, investors dive in

The sun rises on Vietnam’s energy sector

Over the past three decades Vietnam has witnessed startling economic success thanks to the country’s openness to international trade and investment. The energy sector in particular has grown rapidly, with abundant hydrocarbons and hydropower resources allowing the country to keep pace with the energy demands of a rising population.

 

However, there may be clouds on the horizon. The most easily-accessible resources are running out and imports of coal and gas will be increasingly needed to keep industry chugging along. To maintain its high rate of growth Vietnam will be looking for huge investment over the coming years. In order to do this, and keep to its international greenhouse gas commitments, the government has set its sights on some ambitious targets for solar power generation.

 

Recent decisions issued by the government represent baby steps in this direction. Evidently, there is some enthusiasm for a solar-powered future, but is it enough?

Continue reading The sun rises on Vietnam’s energy sector