Vietnam leapfrogs Australia in solar deadline boom

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More than 60% of the Vietnamese PV capacity was commissioned in June alone, as developers rushed to meet the FiT deadline. Credit: Rystad

Vietnam has smashed past steady Australia in terms of solar PV capacity installations after a huge number of projects were connected to the Southeast Asian country's national grid ahead of the 30 June deadline to receive generous feed-in tariff (FiT) subsidies.

While Australia’s operational capacity grew fourfold from under 600MWac to 2.7GWac over the last year, the Vietnamese market went from less than 10MWac operational capacity as of June 2018 to over 4GWac, a 400-fold increase, according to Norway-headquartered consultancy firm Rystad Energy. 

More than 60% of the Vietnamese PV capacity was commissioned in June alone, as developers rushed to meet the FiT deadline. Rystad noted that the average time for construction and commissioning in Vietnam was 275 days, highlighting what the consultancy described as exceptional speed.

The Vietnam figures were also backed up by state-run Vietnam News Agency, which quoted monopoly utility Vietnam Electricity (EVN) data that said 82 solar plants with a total capacity of 4,460MW have been grid-connected overall in Vietnam. This also means that solar is approaching 10% of Vietnam's total electric power capacity. Furthermore, another 13 projects with a combined capacity of 630MW are scheduled to come online by the end of this year.

“Few would have predicted Vietnamese utility PV to exceed Australia’s by mid-year,” said David Dixon, senior analyst on Rystad Energy’s renewables team. “The commissioned capacity in Vietnam has exceeded our high case.”

Despite another 800MWac forecasted by Rystad to come online in Australia in H2 2019, the cumulative total of around 3.5GWac at that stage will still be well below that of Vietnam.

The numbers are striking because while Australian large-scale renewables were held up by political squabbling over its Renewable Energy Target (RET) mechanism, it has been seen as a steadily booming market, particularly on large-scale solar-plus-storage, since 2016, whereas Vietnam, whose PV progress just two years ago was negligible, only brought in its FiT subsidy in April 2017. This was also followed by confused debates and uncertainty around its solar PPA parameters.

With More than 4GW installed in Vietnam, Rystad described the Southeast Asian nation as a “powerhouse in the region”. Indeed a number of huge projects – the largest in the ASEAN region – have come online this summer, including Sunseap and InfraCo Asia's 168MW plant, B.Grimm Power's 420MW system, and BIM and Ayala's 250MW project.

Credit: Sharp

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