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Fixed national quotas basis of new strategy

At a two day board meeting of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), the outline of an economic, political and technical strategy based on national "quotas," or "obligations," for installed wind power capacity was decided. The new EWEA strategy is aimed at achieving its recently revised goal of 40,000 MW of wind power in Europe by 2010 (Windpower Monthly, November 1997). The six points of the policy span: financial and market issues; institutional (infrastructure) matters; the European electricity grid; public and political attitudes; market development; and technology, research and development (R&D).

A six point strategy for the development of wind energy in Europe has emerged from several weeks of intense wind industry debate on how best to penetrate the electricity markets of tomorrow. At a two day board meeting of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), the outline of an economic, political and technical strategy based on national "quotas," or "obligations," for installed wind power capacity was decided already by the first day.

"It went very well and we have a general agreement," said EWEA president Ian Mays on the evening of November 10. His relieved smile was reflected on the faces of several of the board members, who met in Copenhagen on November 10-11. Prior to the meeting it had been feared that the widely divergent views on market policies held by Europe's national wind energy associations, aired in Windpower Monthly over the past two months and at the recent European Wind Energy Conference in Dublin, would prevent the wind lobby from uniting behind a pan-European strategy.

Pressure on EWEA for a coherent strategy has been intense. The European Commission is in the last stages of preparing the first White Paper (policy statement) on renewable energy, due for publication before the end of the year. A European Directive on renewables development is expected to follow and the views of Europe's leading renewable technology, have been anxiously sought.

The new EWEA strategy is aimed at achieving its recently revised goal of 40,000 MW of wind power in Europe by 2010 (Windpower Monthly, November 1997). The six points of the policy span: financial and market issues; institutional (infrastructure) matters; the European electricity grid; public and political attitudes; market development; and technology, research and development (R&D).

The financial and market foundation on which the strategy rests is a requirement for national renewable energy quotas. "We will push for a percentage obligation at European level and ask the EU to require its member states to negotiate their contribution to the overall target," said Mays. "Each country will have to develop a national target on the basis of what is right for them. What EWEA will set out is methods of achieving that." The most important step will be for member states to each make a concrete commitment to the 40,000 MW goal, he added.

Being realistic

Tradable renewable energy credits -- a system by which commitments to quotas of renewable energy can be met by trading green power credits -- will only work once Europe's electricity market is fully liberalised, said Mays. "That is probably not going to happen until 2010," he continued. "As a starting point EWEA is looking for a mechanism in the short term for what is only achievable in the long term. We have to be realistic."

Under the EWEA strategy, wind lobbies in countries with command and control electricity economies, such as Germany and Denmark, will continue to press for fixed price payments for electricity generated by wind power producers. In liberalised markets, such as Sweden, Britain and soon the Netherlands, the price will be controlled by market forces, but the supply mix will be regulated to include a wind quota.

For an obligation, or quota, system to work, a series of supporting measures are required. These make up the remaining five points of the EWEA strategy. The planning and permitting process is a main issue, said Mays. "We have to find a way of ensuring that targets are not compromised by planning issues. That means that local authorities have to be part of the process -- they have to have goals too." EWEA will press for governments to require that each local authority in Europe prepare a structure plan -- to a specified deadline -- for how it will contribute to meeting a renewable energy quota for its region. Local governments in Denmark and Germany have already either completed, or are completing, structure plans to this end.

Grid improvement fund

On the issue of the grid, EWEA points out that the dispersed nature of renewable power generation will require improvements and changes to the European electricity network. It was built to cope with centralised and not decentralised electricity generation and in many of Europe's windiest areas, such as in Spain and Italy, there is no grid infrastructure, or it is insufficient. "What we are proposing is that a European fund be established for this purpose. The fund could also be used to assist development of unconventional sites: maybe offshore, maybe low wind speed sites," said Mays.

Effective communication is also to be an important part of EWEA's future. "We are developing a PR strategy for how to get our message over to the financial community, the public, utilities and local authorities," said Mays. "We are collecting the tools we need." Media training of industry representatives and assisting wind companies to "hone and refine" their PR tactics will be EWEA tasks. One of the first steps will be for the association to make a presentation at the next major meeting of the World Energy Council.

In the area of market development EWEA has its sights set on the overseas market. "We want to help with market enablement in countries new to wind energy, to encourage market mechanisms and to assist with implementation of EU support," said Mays. This could take the form of working with a regional government to develop support mechanisms to enable a market to be created. Demonstration projects would form a part of this policy.

Lastly, EWEA will gather the threads of wind energy R&D to help the European Commission shape its various support programmes for wind. Under the EU's Fifth Framework Programme, integration of wind into Europe's electricity system and machine development are the two areas EWEA will target.

On offshore wind energy, the association stresses that it should not be developed at the expense of the onshore resource. Nonetheless, Mays admitted that the 40,000 MW target takes offshore into account. "It is inevitable that an important part of it will be offshore. It does not have to be, but with the stage offshore has got to, it is likely to be."

The November EWEA board meeting was one of the best attended ever with nearly half the 40-strong board present, though with only one representative from southern Europe. Twelve countries are represented on the board, which is dominated by Danes, who have 12 seats. The UK and the Netherlands have five seats apiece, while Italy has four. Spain, Ireland, Greece and Germany contribute two representatives each. The remaining seats are held by single delegates from other European countries. US Zond has one seat.

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