Liberalisation uncertainty

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Provisional wind capacity totals just released for the Netherlands suggest that a wait-and-see attitude now prevails in the run-up to full liberalisation of the Dutch electricity market in January 1998. After 1995's record 100 MW addition, the 48.1 MW added in 1996 looks a little disappointing.

The 1995 figures, however, were distorted by the government's decision to axe its 30% investment subsidy and the subsequent rush to complete projects, which in some cases had spent several years in the pipeline. And as an indication of the mood of a market which is preparing for liberalisation next year, the 1996 figures consequently require careful interpretation. They were provisionally released last month by the National Bureau for Wind Energy, which says it will not have final details of installed capacity and output for wind energy in the Netherlands last year until April.

Total installed capacity last year was down on the 75 MW booked in 1994, but up on the 20 MW average annual increment of the 1980s and early 1990s, suggesting that the underlying trend is healthy.

The regional targets for installed capacity agreed between the government, provincial councils and power distribution companies in 1991 look increasingly unrealistic, but they still provide a useful index of potential capacity. The regional breakdown shows Groningen and Flevoland to be strong performers, with Noord-Holland furthest from realising its potential. Groningen's extra capacity will place the regional power utility, EDON, in a strong position should the much discussed market in green electricity materialise on liberalisation. Neighbouring Friesland has in the meanwhile cut its target to 50 MW following public pressure. Its second place in the wind rankings has now also been taken over by Flevoland.

The addition of nearly 50 MW to the national total is particularly encouraging given the uncertainty which presently characterises the Dutch wind community. The absence of a nationally agreed tariff for projects smaller than 2 MW has tended to stifle private investment in wind. The wind lobby hopes this will increase once the promised market in green electricity comes into effect. Even without a guaranteed return, however, private investors continue to set the pace leaving the large utilities trailing in their wake.

The same tension between small and large scale investors is reflected in the figures for market share per manufacturer. In total 132 new turbines went into the ground during 1996. The Lagerwey LW18/80 remains the unit of choice for smaller installations, but Nordtank has shot to the head of the manufacturer's league after the installation of nineteen of their 43/600 kW units at NUON's near-shore park in the IJsselmeer near Lelystad in Flevoland.

Interestingly, the average rated capacity of wind turbines going up in the Netherlands last year was no more than 364 kW, considerably lower than the 500 kW now normal in both Denmark and Sweden, markets also characterised by a high level of private investment. Also of note is that both German Tacke and Dutch WindMaster were pushed out of the market last year. Neither installed any wind turbines in the Netherlands.

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