Vietnam’s Record 9.5 GW of Rooftop Solar Addition Is A 2020 Success Story

Back in 2019, when predictions for 2020 were still being made, not a single analyst could have predicted the convulsions that Covid-19 would cause across industry, including the solar sector. With 2020 behind us finally, it is instructive to look at Vietnam, a market where Covid seems to have had zero impact, with the country delivering a record high solar installation number, powered by rooftop solar. So what did Vietnam actually achieve?

A growth record that  will take some beating, for starters. From a base of 378 MWp in 2019 base the country has ramped up capacity almost 25 fold to almost 9.6 GWp, spread across almost 110,000 systems. These numbers have leapfrogged Vietnam to the top of South East Asian nations on solar capacity, taking the lead over Thailand.

Those numbers in rooftop solar not only demonstrate the zero impact of Covid on the country’s solar growth, but also demonstrate the massive impact solar can have with the right policies today. For the record, with these Vietnam actually achieved its 2025 target in 2020.

Coincidentally for India, which had targeted 40 GW of rooftop solar by 2022 end, those sort of capacity numbers would be very handy to reach its target, and it says something for our local problems, that not even the most optimistic analysts will even consider the proposition anymore.

To be fair, the Vietnam numbers have been achieved in a mad rush to qualify for the second, and last of the country’s Feed in tariff regimes, which had a hard end on December 31, 2020. that also explains how 6.72 GW was installed in just the final month, December. Something similar has happened in China, and earlier the US too as subsidies were phased out. India saw no such rush for installations, due to both the status, and handling of subsidies in the rooftop sector. Which technically continue, but have been subject to repeated policy changes, and delays in payment, making the rooftop solar sector almost a non-starter in most states.

Vietnam’s original FIT policy had created a solar ground mount boom with 2019 installations of about 5.317GWp from a cumulative 2018 solar base of 106 MWp. FIT 2 started in April 2020, to support the momentum in the industry.

FIT 2 seems to have worked much better for rooftop solar, thanks to a subsidy of 8.38 US cents/kWh, lower than the FIT 1, which was 9.35 US cents/kWh. Available for projects commissioned till 31 December 2020 for a 20 year period. With limited land, floating solar has also been in focus, though numbers there are not available yet. But that will definitely be in focus going forward.

With cumulative solar capacity hitting well over 16 GW now, FIT 2 added 1.5 G of utility or ground mounted solar too in 2020.

This growth has been supported by a sharp growth in power consumption, led by industrialization of the country, besides the right conditions for solar power, in terms of high irradiance. Conditions that India is also trying to replicate with its Atmanirbhar schemes, and power for all plans.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International

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