Utilities ignore government policy


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The Dutch government is not amused by the electric utility sector's peremptory decision to more than halve the national target for wind energy from 1000 MW installed capacity in the year 2000 to just 450 MW. From the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Marjolein Wester says the government is still officially aiming at the 1000 MW goal.

The difference of opinion on an appropriate wind energy target is now to be the subject of talks between the government and representatives of the country's electricity production companies, with the government stressing the point that the utilities are reneging on earlier agreements. The power companies, on the other hand, say that 450 MW by 2000 is the limit of what is feasible in the next six years -- a far cry from their earlier aspirations.

Hopes were high back in 1990, when the electric utilities launched their Environmental Action Plan for cutting CO2 emissions. Total reduction of carbon dioxide emissions was set at nine million tons, with enough wind plant being built to save the production of one million tons of CO2. At the same time, increased use of wind energy was supposed to reduce emissions of nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide, the chief components of acid rain, by 34 million "acid equivalents" out of a total reduction target of 194 million acid equivalents.

Recently the results of the first three years of the Environmental Action Plan were published by EnergieNed, the organisation of the distribution companies. Although general results are good, those for wind energy are poor. Of the one million tons of carbon dioxide to be reduced through the use of wind only a 102,000 ton reduction was achieved between 1990 and end 1993, a meagre 10% of the goal. The figures for avoided emissions of acid equivalents are no better, with just 3.7 million of the 34 million target achieved -- a poor result for one of the supposed pillars of the Environmental Action Plan.

Sjoerd Marbus of EnergieNed says the poor results are partly due to the failure of WindPlan -- an ambitious attempt by the distributors to co-ordinate their purchase and development of wind power plant nationwide. But the inability of the electricity companies to agree on WindPlan is not the only reason for the virtual standstill in wind energy development in the Netherlands, says Marbus. Even in Holland, famous for its windmills, there is a growing opposition to modern wind power plant and sites are increasingly hard to find. He also points out that electricity from wind is too expensive compared with other technologies for reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. While the real price of wind power hovers around NLG 0.15-0.17/kWh, the same amount of electricity produced by a combined heat an power plant costs just NLG 0.06/kWh, he says. Distribution companies are supposed to be commercially viable. This is probably why 83% of the emissions reduction target for combined heat and power output (3.3 million tons of carbon dioxide) has already been met.

The conclusion to be drawn from the Environmental Action Plan is that wind energy's role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions is goint to be much smaller than expected in the Netherlands. And as long as combined heat and power output is seen to be more environmentally rewarding, the 1000 MW target for wind energy for the year 2000 will not be met without intervention from the government.

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