Local politicians get earful of arguments -- Dutch Labour party on side

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Dutch offshore wind energy development is paralysed by "incompetence," Mathieu Kortenoever of developer E-Connection told a meeting of local politicians and industry representatives in Middelburg, Zeeland, last month. E-Connection's plans for the offshore 120 MW Q7 WP wind farm have been delayed for a year because of a "lost" application for a tax ruling, Kortenoever pointed out, while further development off the Dutch coast has been put on hold while the government sorts out a concession system.

The meeting was hastily organised by the Dutch Labour party, which is currently in coalition talks with the ruling Christian Democrats and has promised to make offshore wind a top priority -- particularly when it comes to replacing nuclear power. Zeeland is home to one of the country's nuclear reactors.

Labour's Diederik Samsom, a former Greenpeace energy campaigner, told delegates at the meeting that if the Dutch are to achieve their targeted 6000 MW offshore by 2010, then licensing new sites must begin as soon as the newly elected government is formally installed this spring. "While I understand the previous government's desire to prevent a Wild West situation of developing in the North Sea, we cannot deliberate too long," said Samsom. "We have to proceed cautiously but quickly. Personally I think we could use a form of temporary licensing system, where parties are granted licenses on condition that development begins within a fixed period, say three years."

Samsom was also concerned about the government's ability to fund the full amount of North Sea power from its renewables support package. "As it stands the funds would leave us with a shortfall of EUR 150 million, but we could make up that shortfall by further tightening the green power import regulations," Samsom said. He was referring to competition for sales of green power to customers from renewables producers outside the Netherlands.

The local politicians in attendance also heard the connection between local jobs and offshore wind power support. Vestas Nederland's Irwin Coolen hammered home the message of lost opportunities. To service the anticipated demand from the offshore sectors in the Netherlands, Belgium and UK, Vestas wants to open a shore side facility in either Vlissingen, Ijmuiden, Den Helder or Antwerp, he said, which could result in 1150 new jobs by 2020. Before committing itself, however, Vestas needs to know where the new government stands. "With a firm policy commitment we would look to open a new assembly plant somewhere on the North Sea coast within the next three years," said Coolen.

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