Europe 2020 targets - Netherlands

Since the first renewable energy and environmental goals were formulated in 1989, Dutch renewable energy development, including wind power, has been characterised by an unfortunate combination of high ambition on paper and a chronically slow pace of implementation. This discrepancy has been reinforced by continuously changing renewable energy preferences and a stop-go support policy. The previous government aimed for 20% by 2020, of which a major share was to be from 6GW of onshore wind power and the same amount offshore.

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The current operational wind power status is an estimated 2GW onshore, plus 230MW offshore divided between two North Sea wind farms. Today the Dutch renewable energy share is less than 4% and the present government led by prime minister Mark Rutte, has reduced its 2020 ambition to 14%, with offshore no longer considered a key priority. European Wind Energy Association data still reflects the earlier plans.

During its four-year term, the former government was aiming to permit 2GW of new onshore wind power capacity, which would have doubled the wind power base. However, following a record year in 2008 with 348MW added, it was calculated that, from new build minus dismantled turbines, 2009 saw only a 5MW growth, raising the onshore cumulative total to 1.99GW.  

Wind incentives

A factor often cited as a reason for the ongoing wind market stagnation is the abrupt discontinuation of the rather successful Milieukwaliteit van de Elektriciteitsproductie (MEP) support scheme in 2006. MEP was succeeded in 2008 by the ill-fated Stimuleringsregeling Duurzame Energie scheme (SDE). At the start of this year, SDE was replaced by a new scheme, SDE+, which Netherlands Wind Energy Association chairman Jaap Warners hopes will come into effect by July this year. One real benefit of the new scheme compared to its predecessors is that it will be financed from energy bills and perhaps extra tax on fossil fuels, rather than by the government’s treasury. "The market remains cautious and does not put much faith in new concrete policy announcements alone, but demands clear actions," says Warners. "The only positive side I can think of regarding the reduced 14% renewable energy ambition is that this compulsory EU obligation will be monitored from Brussels."

The latest government focus is on a cost-effective and efficient implementation strategy, earmarking biomass energy and onshore wind power as key preferences. However, Warners cautions that biomass energy suffers from a poor sustainability track record, while onshore wind power projects continue to face strong and successful public opposition.

Offshore, 600MW of new wind power capacity has been contracted to German developer Bard, with a project start planned for 2013. Bard could also be selected for a remaining 100MW North Sea offshore wind power, for which SDE support has been earmarked.

Onshore, a major project comprising 38 Enercon 7.5MW turbines and 48 Siemens 3.6MW turbines has received authorisation, with SDE support and government go-ahead. Once operational in 2014, Windpark Noordoostpolder is expected to raise Dutch renewable energy output by 0.7%.

Bram van Noort, a spokesperson for turbine manufacturer Enercon, is positive that the Dutch wind market will pick up slightly this year, with a higher momentum expected for 2012. He stresses, however, that inadequate grid capacity is problematic in provinces such as Zeeland, and is hampering implementation. Van Noort concludes: "The Netherlands is a densely populated country with relatively little space for wind turbines," adding that tall turbines, such as the Enercon with a 135-metre tower, provide high yields with lower costs compared with offshore wind turbines.

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