Glimmer of hope in Sweden

SWEDEN: Following a general election last year, Sweden's new government is ready to redesign the system for offshore support.

Existing capacity…The 110MW Lillgrund project is one of five operating offshore wind farms in Sweden (pic: Siemens)

No new offshore wind projects were under way in 2014 in Sweden and for most of the year, the offshore wind outlook was far from encouraging. But late in the year, the Swedish environment ministry announced a new government plan for offshore wind investment. This looks unlikely to trigger a start of construction for any projects this year, however.

The European Wind Energy Association's Wind energy scenarios for 2020, published in July 2014, predicted that Swedish commissioned offshore wind capacity will not budge from the 212MW in operation in 2013 up to 2020. Onshore wind, on the other hand, was forecast to increase from 4.26GW in 2013 to between 5.5GW and 6.3GW, depending on scenario.

The disappointing offshore outlook was underlined by German developer Wpd's announcement in June 2014 that it was reducing to a minimum the operations and employees of its Offshore Stockholm division.

But by late October, a gleam of hope was emerging. Following a general election in September, the budget presented on 30 October by the new Swedish minority Social Democrat/Green government announced an investigation into how support for offshore wind power can be strengthened. The budget also discussed an increase in the scope of the renewables certificate trading system run jointly with Norway since the start of 2012 to at least 30TWh a year to 2020, compared with the current target of 26.4TWh to 2020.

Despite a far right-wing political challenge to the budget, rebuffed only at the end of the year, the breakthrough came in December, when the environment ministry instructed the Swedish Energy Agency to draw up proposals by 1 June 2015 on how offshore wind support should be designed to create the conditions for its expansion.

The offshore support system should be designed separately from the renewables certificate system and must be compatible with EU state aid rules, the ministry said. "Offshore wind costs are higher than for onshore wind, and so offshore wind is outside the scope of the objectives set for the certificate system," it explained. The government believes, however, that there is plenty of potential to reduce offshore costs.

The most recent offshore project to come online was the 48MW Karehamn wind farm, commissioned in 2013. By the end of 2014, Sweden had five offshore projects totalling 86 turbines and 201MW in operation, down 10MW on 2013, after Vattenfall decommissioned the five 2MW turbines at the Yttre Stengrund wind farm in autumn 2014 after roughly 13 years in operation.

Another eight projects with up to 463 turbines and 2.375GW are permitted, according to the Swedish State Energy Authority. The biggest of these, the 864MW Stora Middelgrund wind farm, is owned by Universal Wind Offshore. Permit applications have been filed for a further five projects with 870-1270 turbines and totalling 3.6-6.46GW, according to the authority. The largest is Blekinge Offshore with 1.5-2.8GW, depending on the turbines used.