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Netherlands

Netherlands

Dutch prepare for another setback -- Offshore tax ruling still pending

Construction of the Netherlands' WP-Q7 offshore wind farm could once again be set back by a year, from 2004 to 2005, if a written ruling on the project's tax status is not soon received by the project developers. Work on the 120 MW plant was originally scheduled to begin this year but was delayed to 2004 when the Dutch government failed to confirm the project was eligible under a previous tax break scheme for accelerated depreciation on environmental investments, or VAMIL. Project finance is conditional on securing this benefit.

Despite EU approval of the tax break in July, the consortium is still waiting for the government confirmation. "The clock is ticking and the lead time on the 150 kV cable means that if we don't hear something soon we will have to postpone construction to 2005," says Mathieu Kortenoever of project initiator E-Connection.

The lack of confirmation has already lead to a reshuffle within the joint venture, which includes monopile manufacturers Smulders Groep, turbine manufacturers Vestas and E-Connection, along with wind project finance specialist, Fortis Bank of London. Two of the original partners, ABB and construction experts Smit Transport, have exited, to be replaced by Fabricom Oil & Gas and foundation experts Mammoet van Oord.

Fabricom, a Dutch subsidiary of Belgian engineering concern Tractabel, will be responsible for the construction and service and maintenance of the electrical engineering. Mammoet van Oord, a veteran of the 160 MW Horns Reef offshore wind farm, is also involved in building foundations for the projects at Scroby Sands in the UK and Arklow Banks in Ireland. At Q7 it will be working in a water depth of 23 to 25 metres, 25 kilometres off the Dutch coast of IJmuiden.

Kortenoever is confident the project will secure the vital VAMIL ruling. Officials at the spatial planning ministry have said that it is eligible since it applied before the tax break was discontinued last summer. They have suggested it go ahead with construction preparations ahead of written confirmation. This is not possible under the terms of the financing agreement, however, says Kortenoever.

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