Green credits and quotas now driving the market -- Belgium primes the pump

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With the implementation of renewables obligation laws in the Flanders and Walloon regions, plus a federal decision to phase out nuclear power, the Belgian wind sector received a significant legislative boost in 2002. Stoking the fires under the renewables market has not, however, yet led to increased construction of wind plant. Just 13 turbines added 9 MW last year, bringing the national wind power total to 54 turbines and 45.75 MW, according to the Flemish Organisation for Renewable Energy (ODE Vlaanderen).

In Flanders, however, new capacity is set to increase significantly over 2003, says ODE Vlaanderen's Marleen de Roye, with some 14 MW planned for the Ghent Canal area and 29.2 MW at two sites in Zeebrugge (table). Outside Flanders, in the French speaking Walloon region, wind is also making inroads with construction ongoing on a 7.5 MW plant of DeWind turbines at Saint-Ode by local project developer The Renewable Power Company, which already operates a wind plant of DeWind turbines in neighbouring Luxembourg.

Power giant Electrabel has also been granted planning permission for a EUR 9.6 million project of four 2 MW turbines at Roderhöhe near Bütgenbach in the Hautes Fagnes -- the region's first wind farm. It is due online in the spring with a projected annual output of 16 million kWh. Electrabel has applied for planning permission to build 86 turbines (130 MW) in Belgium, with 34 turbines (72 MW) earmarked for Wallonia.

Electrabel's new interest in wind power is being driven by the two renewables obligations, each of which mandate minimum standards for the amount of green power in electricity supply portfolios. In Flanders, electricity retailers must demonstrate they have secured at least 2% of their supplies from renewables sources through the ownership of green power certificates. The obligation climbs to 7% in 2010 and has been operational since January 1, 2002. From March 31, retailers who fail to meet their quota will pay fines of EUR 75 for every MWh they fall below their target. Under the system, Flemish wind energy producers are also guaranteed a purchase price for the physical power of EUR 50/MWh for onshore and EUR 90 MWh for offshore wind energy by the federal government.

At present it is very much a seller's market with six companies looking to buy certificates while only two have certificates to sell: Electrabel (also a buyer) and hydro-specialist Aquafin. Certificate prices in December averaged EUR 63.33/MWh, with a peak of EUR 109.55, reports VREG, the body charged with monitoring the system.

What impact the system will have on further wind development remains to be seen, says de Roye. "The real obstacle facing wind in Flanders is the ruling that new wind farms can only be built in designated industrial areas, which means that the number of possible sites is strictly limited -- and most of the suitable sites already have applications pending," she says.

In Wallonia a similar certificate-based renewables obligation system was introduced on October 1. This features a 3% producer obligation over the first 12 months, rising by 1% every year (on September 30) to 7% in 2007, after which renewables quotas will be set directly by the government. Penalty prices have been set at EUR 75 for each missing certificate over the first six months and thereafter EUR 100 per certificate per quarter.


Green certificates for electricity produced elsewhere in Belgium will be accepted by Walloon, while imported certificates will be accepted under conditions the government will decide. Producers of electricity can sell their green certificates on the market or hand them in to the energy ministry in exchange for a guaranteed subsidy, which will be fixed for up to ten years. The details of the subsidy part of the scheme are still to be confirmed.

As the country's largest power supplier, Electrabel, has been critical of both systems, pronouncing the Flemish target of a 4% renewables mix by 2004 "unreachable" and warning it will lead to a 10-15% hike in power bills.

With the limited availability of onshore sites Electrabel is looking offshore for the primary source of new wind capacity. Its plans for the 100 MW Seanergy offshore wind farm, however, are still under judicial review and the company says it is unwilling to begin work on other projects until it has thoroughly tested the robustness of the green certificate system (page 72).

This year will see the liberalisation of the domestic consumer market for green power, allowing Belgian families to shop around for green power from July 1. In the Netherlands, consumer demand for green power is a primary driver of renewables investment. Given that the Belgian market will be operating in tandem with a renewables obligation, however, and with the current scarcity of Belgian green certificates, liberalisation is likely to result in Belgian consumers buying green power from Dutch utilities -- which have already begun extensive marketing campaigns in Belgium, believes de Roye. With the regulation of the green power market still to be finalised, predicting what might not happen is a fool's game.

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