Solar Power

International context

The COP 21 conference with the attention of 195 nations has officially issued Paris Agreement, marking an important breakthrough in the effort of the United Nations to convince Governments to reduce polluting emissions and limit the temperature rise of the Earth by +1.5 up to +2oC. The world has to act now and one of the most rapid and effective solution is to increase the use of renewable energy, especially solar energy, to replace traditional and polluting sources. This opens a new era of potential development for solar energy.

According to The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the proportion of electricity production from solar energy could rise from 2% today to 13% by 2030. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to increase by more than twice the new installed solar power capacity every year in the next 14 years. This suggests that the policy framework should be redesigned so as to facilitate the development of the solar market.

By the end of 2015, the global total capacity of solar power reached about 232 GWp, including 227 GWp from photovoltaic technology and about 5 GWp from solar thermal power technology, showing an increase of more than 25 % compared to 2014. With a new installed capacity of 50.6 GWp, China has overtaken Germany to become the leader in solar electricity generation. It is expected that the global solar power capacity will reach 600 GWp by 2020.

Recently, there are two main technology types in solar electricity generation: Solar photovoltaic technology (SPV) and solar thermal technology (or Concentrating Solar Power, CSP):

  • Solar photovoltaic technology (SPV): the most common technology is silicon crystalline (about 90% of total PV installation), with available efficiency on the market from 14 to 20%. Many research and development laboratories are developing solar cells with much higher efficiency (multi-junction cells reaching up to 46% Fraunhofer ISE/ Soitec, according to the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL))

Figure 1 : Capacity of installed photovoltaic power by PV technology

  • Solar thermal technology (Concentrating Solar Power, CSP), with about 5GWp installed capacity worldwide, through different technologies (Parabolic trough, Fresnel reflectors, solar power tower, Dish-Stirling).

Figure 2 :  Installed Capacity for CSP worldwide

Table 1 : Solar power technologies

Table 1 : Solar power technologies

According to the analysis of IRENA, the cost of harvesting solar energy has been keeping on reducing, and it is expected that the price of PV panel could decrease even more in the next 10 years.

Currently, 144 countries have established policy related to renewable energy development. With the growing trend of such technologies, coupled with the promulgation and improvement of policy such as feed-in tariff, tax preference, land use and other external factors (depletion of traditional energy sources, climate change issues), the renewable energy sector is expected to experience a great development with solar energy playing a key role.

“World electricity demand is expected to grow more than 50% by 2030, mostly in developing and emerging economies. To meet this demand while also realizing global development and sustainability goals, governments must implement policies that enable solar to achieve its full potential.”- Adnan Z.Amin, IRENA General Director said.

Figure 3 : Countries with Renewable Energy Policies, by type, 2015.

Figure 3 : Countries with Renewable Energy Policies, by type, 2015.


Domestic: Solar energy potential in Vietnam

Vietnam has an enormous potential of development of renewable energy. Stretching from longitude 23o23′ N to 8o27′ N, it is benefit from a relatively high solar radiation intensity. Ho Chi Minh City and its neighbouring provinces, along with Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan provinces have the highest potential, with an average intensity of solar radiation around 5kWh/m2. The average number of sunny days in the provinces in the Central and Southern of Vietnam is about 300 days / year.

Table 2 : Annual average of daily Global Horizontal Irradiation (GHI) in regions of Vietnam

Table 2 : Annual average of daily Global Horizontal Irradiation (GHI) in regions of Vietnam



Figure 4 : Solar radiation map of Vietnam

Current status of installed capacity and pilot program

According to the statistic data of MOIT, up to 2015, the installed capacity of solar power throughout the territory of Vietnam is estimated to be 4.5MWp, in which, grid-tied projects account for about 0.6 to 1MWp. Some typical projects are the National Convention Center (154kWp), Ministry of Industry and Trade Building (12kWp), Intel Building – Ho Chi Minh City Hi-Tech Park (220kWp), Aeon Trade Center – Binh Tan, Ho Chi Minh City (320kWp), DBW (165kWp), Big C Di An (212kWp)….

Since 2015, the Energy Conservation Center (ECC) of Ho Chi Minh City has implemented a pilot program to develop mechanisms to support solar electricity investment in HCMC (2015-2016) with the goal of developing 1MWp/year. The content of the program is to purchase the electricity from PV systems of enterprises, buildings and households with price VND 2,000/kWh and to install grid-tied photovoltaic systems for 7 office buildings, with an average capacity of 20kWp per system.

At present, Vietnam is mainly developing grid-tied photovoltaic projects on the rooftop of building and standalone systems for remote areas and islands. There is still no large scale solar power plant, because investors are still mostly under feasibility study and waiting for an official solar electricity purchasing policy.


Figure 5 : Photovoltaic system in DBW factory, Long An (Source: Artelia /Aschoff solar)


Figure 6 : Grid-tied photovoltaic system at the Vietnam National Conference Center


Development objectives and policies

The Vietnamese government has set a target that the share of the new and renewable energy will be up to 5% of the total primary energy source by 2020 and 11% by 2050 (Decision No.1855/2007 /QD-TTG) and increase the share of electricity production from renewable energy sources (excluding large-scale, medium-scale and pumped storage hydropower) will be up to 4.5% of total electricity production by 2020 and 6% by 2030 (Decision No.1208/QD-TTG, or General Electric scheme VII).

In 2015, the Vietnamese Government has established the Development Strategy of renewable energy of Vietnam by 2030 with a vision 2050 with the objective of:

  • Increasing the total renewable energy production, from about 25 million TOE (tons of oil equivalent) by 2015 up to 37 million TOE by 2020, 62 million TOE in 2030 and 138 million TOE by 2050. The share of renewable energy in the total primary energy consumption is expected to increase from 31.8% by 2015 up to 31.0% by 2020, 32.3% by 2030 and 44.0% by 2050.
  • To increase the production of electricity from renewable energy from approximately 58 billion kWh by 2015 to 101 billion kWh by 2020, 186 billion kWh by 2030 and to 452 billion kWh by 2050. The share of electricity produced from renewable energy in the total national electricity production is expected to increase from 35% by 2015 up to 38% by 2020, 32% by 2030 and 43% by 2050.

In August 2016, at the Government’s regular meeting, the Prime Minister agreed with the mechanism of Ministry of Industry and Trade to encourage the development of solar power projects in Vietnam, namely:

  • Mechanisms of electricity price for grid-tied solar power projects: the Ministry of Industry and Commerce reviews and updates the cost of PV components having trend of cost reduction in order to issue the appropriate feed in tariff in next 3 years (2016 – 2018), researches to complete provisions to gradually implement public bidding transparently for solar power projects and reduces the electricity price of projects.
  • About the electricity price mechanisms for rooftop solar PV system: MOIT will develop the appropriate feed-in tariff
  • Additional regulations on management of the purchasing of Certified Emission Reduction (CERs) for solar power projects.
  • The Ministry of Trade and Industry will supplement and complete regulations on the exemption from business registration license and taxes, fees for solar power projects on rooftop (installed capacity not exceeding 50kWp).
  • Supplement regulations and mechanisms to encourage the development of domestic solar power equipment manufacture, enhance localization rate of solar power projects to gradually reduce the electricity price of solar power projects.


Technology in manufacture and application

In 2009. Thanks to this plant, the selling cost of solar PV modules was reduced by 30-40% compared to the imported ones, reducing as a consequence the investment cost of the whole solar PV systems.

Until now, the solar industry of Vietnam has nearly completed. The domestic manufacturers have mastered a part of technology, has built a number of production facilities such as: Solar panel production plant (Research Center of technology transfer and technology appraisal in Hoa Lac Hi-tech park, solar plant IREX-BK, etc.), peripheral electronic devices manufacturing companies (company AST, Vu Phong, etc.) but there has been still no cell manufacturing plant.

Although the Vietnam has a huge potential in terms of renewable energy development in general and solar energy in particular, so far the development of the solar sector at the national sector is still only starting.

This can be explained by its rather long term economic benefits, along with barriers related to policy mechanisms and lack of regulation on project implementation.

Figure 7 : Solar potential map of Vietnam

Figure 7 : Solar potential map of Vietnam