Frustrated by what it claims to be a lack of industry support, the Dutch government has abandoned its July plans to introduce an interim policy on granting concessions for new wind farms in the North Sea (Windpower Monthly, August 2003). The plan's implementation needed the full co-operation and goodwill of the market players, but the support has been lacking, says economics minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst.
"This is utter nonsense," says Mathieu Kortenoever of developer E-Connection. "By spring we had reached agreement on an interim policy, which -- while it had a weak legal basis -- did offer applicants exclusive rights to the area covered under their concession." Securing concessions is a vital first step for attracting finance and starting development, he adds. But in July market players heard that guaranteeing concessions was impossible -- and so withdrew their support of the plan.
An alternative proposal, submitted by them in September, allowed a developer to apply for exclusive rights to an area no greater than 50 square kilometres. Applications would be judged by technical and financial criteria as well as their ability to produce at least 18,000 MWh a year per square kilometre. Overlapping concession applications would be decided by lottery and concessions could be revoked after 16 months if progress was unsatisfactory.
"It is just not true that we have failed to support the introduction of an interim policy," says Kortenoever. He adds that the industry group has also suggested that the four concerns which had applied for less than 900 MW of concessions in 2001 -- Greenpeace, Nuon, Econcern and E-connection -- be allowed to develop one project each under the alternative policy proposals. Meantime, Nuon and Greenpeace have both begun court actions to challenge the legality of the government's refusal to process their applications. Rulings are expected before the New Year.
Abandoning the interim policy effectively means that no new permits for offshore wind farms will be granted until at least mid-2004. As a result Dutch offshore activity is likely to grind to a halt after the completion of the 100 MW Near Shore Windfarm being developed by Nuon and Shell in the NoordZeeWind consortium, and the 120 MW WPQ7 project led by E-connection. The offshore freeze will be disastrous for the country's plans to build 6000 MW offshore by 2020 and its chances of developing a significant offshore industry, remarks Diederik Samsom, a renewables specialist in the opposition Labour party.