Nearly 460MW of new wind has recently been permitted and a new subsidy to reduce reliance on public funding is to take effect within months. But optimism is in short supply after only 30.1MW of new wind was added in 2010.
The previous coalition government, in power between 2007 and mid-2010, aimed at generating 20% of its total energy use from renewable sources by 2020. During its four-year term, it built or permitted an additional 2GW of new onshore wind capacity. Last year, 32.3MW of new wind was added but 2.2MW was decommissioned, leaving total capacity at 2.25GW. At present, the Netherlands sources 4% of total energy from renewables.
The current centre-right minority government, however, has reduced Dutch ambitions for 2020 to 14% - the compulsory EU member state obligation. The new focus prioritises biomass energy and onshore wind. But biomass suffers from a poor sustainability track record and onshore wind faces strong public opposition. There is no longer an official target for offshore wind.
In January, the heavily criticised Stimuleringsregeling Duurzame Energie (SDE) incentive was replaced by SDE+. Introduced in 2008, the SDE policy gave renewable energy producers a fixed price for electricity and was fully financed by the government. SDE+ will be financed through higher energy bills and possibly from increased fossil-fuel taxes rather than draw from treasury funds. It is likely to begin in July. But critics fear that planning and implementation delays will result in another year of lost opportunities for wind and continued uncertainty for investors.
On a more positive note, the onshore Windpark Noordoostpolder project is fully permitted and has received the green light for a government subsidy. Yet, when operational by 2014, the facility will raise Dutch renewable energy output by only an estimated 0.7% - leaving a big gap to the 14% target by 2020.