Czech Republic

Czech Republic

Good intentions but legislation is weak

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Potential for serious wind development in central and east European countries looks encouraging on paper, but in reality there is little substance behind the eastern promise. Nascent but stubborn wind associations are now gathering strength to challenge powerful coal lobbies and pricing laws that make wind uneconomic

Wind energy is still at or before the starting blocks in most Central and East European Countries (CEECs). Despite new requirements in several countries to allow renewables onto the grid, concerns about the economic realities of developing wind energy are preventing development progress. Nonetheless there are plenty of good intentions directed towards getting the markets on the move.

This was the main conclusion from a recent wind survey of the CEECs that have applied for membership to the European Union, conducted by the Czech Wind Energy Association (CWEA). The CWEA volunteered to do the survey at a wind energy conference in the autumn in St Pölten, Austria, organised by German wind planning and engineering company Energiewerkstatt, together with the German Institute for Solar Energy Technology and CWEA.

Ivan Sladek, a CWEA stalwart, conducted the survey, basing it on conversations with colleagues in other CEECs and by questionnaires sent to people and institutions known to be connected with the wind energy sector." Only contacts in Latvia and Slovenia failed to respond.

Enthusiasm for renewable energy is in no short supply in the CEECs. The Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Poland, Hungary and Romania all have wind energy associations -- and in most countries at least one university has a department specialising in the use of renewable energies, including wind. On paper, this looks promising, but as the CSEA survey reveals, the market policies of each EU-hopeful lack teeth.

The break-up of the Soviet Union nearly a decade ago should have given renewables a push. Since then, Russia can no longer be relied upon to supply cheap oil and gas to the CEECs, and nuclear plant have had a dubious reputation in the West since the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986. The wide use of lignite and coal in power plant -- particularly in Poland and the Czech Republic -- has come under fire from the EU, along with the general lack of pollution control. The time for wind would seem to be ripe.

Czeching the price

Sladek says the most promising development has been the legal grid obligation for renewables in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Bulgaria. Grid operators pay a price for the clean power that is usually linked to the power prices asked of household customers.

In the Czech Republic, the typical rate paid for renewable energy is about CZK 1.20/kWh (EUR 0.033/kWh) -- somewhat less than the household power price of CZK 2.0/kWh. The grid obligation is impotent, however, because there are no penalties for non compliance. But "it's better than nothing," notes CWEA's Milan Miessler. He adds that the Czech government is reluctant to do more because the strong coal and lignite lobby blocks any move that could threaten miners' employment, especially in the lignite mines in northern Bohemia.

The government is thus trying other ways to boost clean power. In January, it agreed a levy of about 0.5% on the retail price of electricity for a renewable energies fund. The levy coincides with a policy paper from the Czech ministry of energy, which sets a target for renewables to cover 6% of the Czech electricity supply by 2010. Already, the industry ministry makes CZK 300 million available for renewable energy and energy saving projects. So far no funds have gone to wind energy. "But there is hope that this year wind will benefit," Miessler says.

Currently, the Czech Republic has 7 MW of wind power, with three clusters and a few single plant. Six 500 kW Vestas units, installed in 1994, are turning at Ostruzna, while another four 400 kW Czech-built EKOV turbines have operated since 1995 at Novy Hradek. At Mraveneenik, a Wind World 220 kW was installed in 1993, followed by a Czech Energovars 315 kW unit in 1995 and a 630 kW machine in 1997. A 5 MW, ten turbine station planned for a site in the hills of Krusné Hory was due on-line late last year, but has been delayed.

Several new projects are planned but construction has been postponed because the purchase price for renewables power is too low and the operators would only make losses, Sladek adds. In addition, a large nuclear power station in Temielin is due to come on-line by early 2001, making it even tougher for renewables to get going.

Poland the pits

Wind energy developers in Poland are also up against a powerful coal sector and miners trade union. As in the Czech Republic, the Polish parliament is heavily influenced by these lobbies. Conditions for private investors in wind plant are the pits.

The Polish Wind Energy Association and the climatology department at Breslau University are fighting for wind energy. Despite the obligation on state-owned electricity distribution companies to take green power onto their grids, the price is about the same as the tariff paid by customers connected to the low voltage grid, according to the survey. No government renewables support program exists, but low interest credits are available from the state environment fund and from normal banks when the money is used for environmental projects.

Of the 7 MW of wind capacity in Poland today, 11 turbines between 95-600 kW are turning, operated by a university, a monastery and a village. Several of the machines are Polish-built NOWOMAG 160 kW units, owned privately. Another three machines, 250-500 kW in size, are scheduled to come on-line at Wojewodschaft in Lower Silesia later in the year.

A project of ten Husumer Schiffswerft 1 MW turbines at a location on the Baltic coast has been postponed after the local licensing authority rejected the plan. The project is not dead, but nothing will happen this year, according to Olaf Struck of Jacobs Energie, the company that has taken over the bankrupt HSW's wind activities.

Waiting Baltics

In the Baltics, Estonia and Lithuania have laws requiring the uptake of renewables onto the grid, but pricing policies prohibit serious wind development. In Estonia, the fixed wind tariff equals 90% of the price paid by household customers; since the beginning of 1999, this has been EUR 0.048/kWh. The arrangement applies only if the amount of renewables generated electricity in the previous year does not exceed 2% of total energy consumption in the country.

Several wind projects in Estonia have foundered on the financing hurdle, the survey reveals. Loans are not forthcoming according to Inge Roos of the Estonian Energy Research Institute in Tallinn. The largest project in waiting is 10.5 MW for Tahkuna, which will comprise either 500 kW or 1.5 MW turbines.

Tahkuna has been planned by a specialist department at Tallinn Technical University for private energy company Oü Uulu Elekter. The only turbine in operation in Estonia is a Danish Genwind GV 150 kW machine at Cape Tahkuna, the northernmost point of Hiiumaa Island. The machine is owned by the Biosphere Reservation Hiiumaa and maintained under contract by the island electricity company. Installed with the financial support of the Danish environment agency, the turbine has been feeding into the grid since September 1997.

Almost all electricity consumed in Estonia is generated from bituminous shale, but Roos is optimistic that conditions for the wind sector will improve. Her confidence is partly supported by two recent wind energy events at universities which attracted impressive numbers of delegates.

No wind turbines operate in Lithuania, where favoured renewable energy sources are biomass and small hydro plant. A 4 MW demonstration wind project is on the drawing board for a site at Butinge on the Baltic Sea coast, where the wind blows at 4.5-5 m/s at a height of ten metres height, reports Romualdas Jarmokas from the economy ministry's energy department. Full financing for the project has not yet been secured.

The government has fixed a green power tariff, but turning to renewables represents a radical change of direction. Lithuania has the highest dependence on nuclear power in its electricity supply of any country in the world, supplied by a single nuclear plant, Ignalina.

Nothing doing

A century ago about 300 windmills were in operation along the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria, but today the wind is not used at all. In 1998, a state agency for energy economy was founded with the primary task of supporting the use of renewables. Then last year, a renewables grid obligation law was passed. Even so, there are no projects planned, reports Peter Ivanov from the state institute of meteorology and hydrology. Likewise, Hungary has no installed wind plant, but the university of agricultural science in Gödöllö runs a course on wind energy and is preparing a pilot project.

The situation is similar in the Slovak Republic, where a wind association exists, but there are no wind plant or firm projects. Several possible locations for wind plant have been identified near the town of Telgart, on the Kojsovska Hola hills and in the Bratislava hinterland.

Romania hopes

Romania has about 1 MW of wind capacity in the ground, with big plans for the future, calling for the installation of 550 MW of wind energy by 2010, rising to 3000 MW in the longer term, report two professors at the University of Cluj Napoca. Despite the optimism, however, details of how the country plans to reach the goal are scarce.

With average wind speeds ranging from five to ten metres a second along the Black Sea coast, Carpathean Mountains and in the south of Moldavia, Romania's wind development has mostly been done by state research institutes or the Technical University of Timisoara, which have installed two 330 kW machines and several 20 kW vertical axis units. Romania has a wind energy association based in Bucharest that works closely with the Institute for Energy Research and Modernisation.

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