Belgium - Holding steady despite policy struggles

BELGIUM: Belgium has fallen short of predictions for new installed capacity of the last few years so is cautious about 2013 predictions.

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Fawaz al Bitar, wind adviser for renewable energy federation Edora, estimates that the onshore installation in the southern region of Wallonia in 2013 will be steady at 100MW, with 31MW under construction and a further 76MW with permission. Belgium's installed capacity was 1.38GW at the end of 2012.

Wallonia is committed to 4,500GWh/year by 2020 under European Union renewable energy targets, which would require an extra 600-700 turbines to be installed per year. However, Al Bitar is optimistic owing to the almost 2GW of wind projects in the pipeline.

Of this, most are going through the environmental impact assessment stage, and 238MW is awaiting permission. However, almost a quarter - 456MW - have permission but are being appealed. Edora is urging the government to impose stricter guidelines to ensure that developers have more confidence that permissions will not be appealed. Several wind farms have been refused permission, which is what made 2012 particularly disappointing in terms of added capacity.

belgium capacity pieThe European Wind Energy Association says that despite predictions of an additional 541MW in Wallonia and 342MW in Flanders in 2012, Belgium installed only 297MW of new capacity. Of this, 185MW were offshore, 34MW was added in the southern Walloon region and 78MW in Flanders - bringing the Walloon total capacity to 576MW and the Flemmish total capacity to 420MW.

Another problem is uncertainty over the support mechanism. Green certificate prices has crashed from EUR85/MWh to EUR 65/MWh in the past two years and there is uncertainty over how much will be paid in the future. Because of this, Wallonia's wind industry grew by just 6% compared to 20% in the northern region of Flanders.

Offshore, Belgium awarded development rights for seven projects in 2012. Installed capacity is approaching 400MW. In the North Sea, the 110MW second phase of developer C-Power's Thornton Bank wind farm should be completed in the summer. The third phase is under construction. The 462MW Mermaid project was awarded preliminary right to proceed last year, while the 216MW Northwind project will start construction this year.

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