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Netherlands

Netherlands

The shape of a new age market -- Dutch progress 1999

As an early adopter of the principle that renewables development should be stimulated by market mechanisms rather than direct subsidy, the performance of the Dutch wind sector should provide some indication of the shape of things to come for European wind in general. The message from the Netherlands four years after the end of subsidies and two years after the introduction of the Green Label system -- under which producers' profits are realised through the trade of green power production certificates -- seems to be one of cautious optimism but no spectacular success.

With a further 45.9 MW capacity installed in 1999, bringing the national total to 409 MW, Dutch wind ended the century on the path of steady growth. Some 7 MW up on last year's figures and 16 MW up on the "crisis" year of 1997, Dutch wind is clearly moving in the right direction, albeit not quickly.

Government agency Novem, responsible for the implementation of national wind policy, retreated from an earlier target of 1000 MW by 2000 some five years ago, substituting a less ambitious goal of 100 MW a year. This was achieved in 1995 when in a rush to beat subsidy deadlines 105 MW went up, but never since. Consequently the official response to the latest annual figures is low key. "Steady, but not yet enough," says Novem's Ruud de Bruijne. "For 2000 we hope that growth comes closer to the targeted 100 MW per annum."

Whether the glass is half full or half empty can be endlessly debated, for if 46 MW is less than half the Novem target, it is more than double the annual rate of 20 MW of new wind under the subsidy system. As such De Bruijne believes the market mechanisms are working: "The volume of projects under development is enough to meet all the ambitious goals. The bottleneck is public acceptance and legislation," he says. Consequently, ministerial initiatives to ease the planning and legislative bottlenecks (Windpower Monthly, December 1999) may prove to be the most important undertaken in the past year.

Post subsidy health

Perhaps the clearest indication of the underlying health of the post-subsidy market is the fact that it has been private investors looking to make a profit -- rather than utilities looking to fulfil renewables quotas -- which has been the main driver of market growth in 1999.

The year's two largest projects, the 11.4 MW Windpark Groetpolder in Noord Holland and the 11.5 MW Dronten wind farm in Flevoland, were both developed by local farmers convinced that wind can offer an attractive return -- on a very substantial investment -- despite the absence of any fixed tariff. Indeed, the utility sector installed just one 750 kW unit last year and the absence of power company sponsored developments was among the most striking -- and some say worrying -- features of 1999. In the previous year the utilities constructed over 50% of the new capacity.

For De Bruijne, however, the utility inactivity is no particular cause for concern: "There is no lack of utility activity, major projects are under development," he says. "Wait and see what 2000 brings." With Nuon-ENW planning major wet-foot and near-shore projects in the IJsselmeer and North Sea and EDON finalising plans for what promises to be the biggest wind farm in Europe, at Delfzijl, the utilities are set to return to the driving seat of Dutch wind development in a big way.

Moreover, continued power company involvement is guaranteed by the growth in green electricity sales, De Bruijne believes. With the recent increase in the Dutch carbon tax, the REB, green electricity is much more attractive to ordinary householders.

Development 1999

Nor has the absence of major utility activity been to the detriment of the sector's efficiency. Wind turbines are getting bigger and the unit average was 706 kW. The use of seven 1.65 MW Vestas machines at Dronten and a 1 MW NedWind unit on the Maasvlakte in Zuid Holland did much to hoist the average, which would have been higher had not Lagerwey returned to the score sheet with the sale of four of its 80 kW units, despite the general trend away from low-capacity solitary turbines in most regional wind policy.

According to certification agency KEMA, 65 turbines went up in 1999, bringing the total to 1258. Most of the new development was in Flevoland, the first province to pass 100 MW (table), closely followed by Noord Holland. Perhaps significantly, both are served by newly merged NUON-ENW power concern.

Looking to the future, De Bruijne finds prediction difficult. "There are so many serious big projects in the pipeline that talk of future performance must be very speculative, but a realisation in 2000 of somewhere between 50 and 100 MW seems reasonable," he says.

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