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Belgium

Belgium

Europe 2020 targets - Belgium

BELGIUM: According to EWEA research, Belgium should have few problems reaching its stated wind power target, even though it must more than double its recent rate of growth. But renewables lobbyists say the target is too low and have called on the government to address restrictions to turbine construction in order to boost the sector's growth.

Belgium has an overall 13% renewables target for 2020, up from just over 2% in 2005. With an annual electricity production in 2020 estimated at 10.5TWh, wind energy will cover 9.5% of consumption. The national plan does not present an onshore/offshore breakdown, but EWEA says offshore capacity is expected to reach 2GW by 2020. Installations are forecast to increase steadily from just over 200MW a year in 2012 to more than 480MW by 2018, with cumulative capacity in 2020 estimated at 4.32GW. "Considering recent growth, the target seems easily achievable," the association says.

Dr Fawaz Al Bitar, wind advisor for the Belgian federation of renewable energy producers EDORA, regrets this lack of ambition. "The global objective of 10.5TWh is 40% lower than the objective of 16.8TWh fixed by EDORA for 2020," he says. Dr Al Bitar believes the government needs to reduce the restrictions placed on wind farms. These include the ban on constructing turbines on military ground, aeronautical restrictions and limits on what can be built in natural areas.

Jim Williame, head of the Belgian renewable energy cooperative Ecopower, agrees. "At the moment the government believes that new capacity will come from big wind parks in harbour or offshore," he says, but adds that such parks may never see the light of day. "The possibilities for permits in harbours are limited." Bruno Claessens, wind expert at APERe, the association that promotes renewable energy, warns of increasing resistance from the general public and suggests that lifting restrictions would help to ensure better acceptance of wind power projects by local residents.

Sweden is doing well enough to relax a little on its annual wind power growth, despite having the top EU renewable energy target, set at 49%, up from 39.8% in 2005. The national action plan goes further, saying that 50.2% of Sweden’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2020. It also says 62.9% of the country’s electricity should come from renewable sources in 2020 but, surprisingly, wind power is only expected to generate 8.1% of this figure.

The green electricity certificates programme is a strong force behind encouraging power purchasers to source electricity from renewables. When Norway, with whom Sweden shares a common electricity market, joins the programme, this will increase the market potential for renewable energy but may also force Swedish wind energy producers to compete with "cheap" Norwegian hydro power.

Sweden’s national plan shows wind power capacity growing by almost 240MW a year, reaching 4.5GW by 2020. The growth is mainly from onshore, as very little increase is expected offshore. Swedish offshore capacity reached 164MW by 2009, from five wind farms — and there it has stayed. With no offshore-specific support mechanism proposed, a previous vision of major offshore increases by 2020 seems unlikely.

Overall, Sweden is making steady progress, and is likely to reach its 2020 targets. It has some significant projects in the pipeline, like the 1,101-turbine Markbygden development, which will be one of Europe’s largest wind parks by 2021, and the 265MW Storgrundet offshore park, on which construction may start in 2014.

"It seems the industry is quite happy with the conditions, otherwise the market wouldn’t accelerate. The grid is always a problem, but less so in Sweden than in many countries," says Gunnar Fredriksson, deputy CEO of Swedish wind energy body, Svensk Vindenergi.

Local opposition to onshore and offshore wind turbines, however, is an issue. The Swedish air force argues that turbines interfere with their job and in 2009 municipalities were given the power to block wind farm developments. Another challenge, according to Svensk Vindenergi, is the indirect impact of the economic crisis, which it believes has made investors slightly more cautious about investing in wind projects. 

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