Rewards reaped of consistent policy -- Netherlands breakthrough

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A spectacular rise in installed capacity against a background of unprecedented policy turmoil made 2002 one of the most memorable years in the history of Dutch wind. A net total of 201.87 MW was added last year, more than four times the annual average over the past six years. The previous record of 105 MW from 1995 was nearly doubled.

Wind capacity in the Netherlands reached 688 MW at the end of 2002, with 166 new turbines (216 MW) installed and 40 turbines (14.93 MW) decommissioned, reports Wind Service Holland (WSH). Dutch wind now meets 1.4% of national electricity consumption, supplying 1495 million kWh, or enough for 470,000 households.

The stellar performance of the past year might suggest some fundamental change in the structure of the Dutch market. But the end year result was more a mix of coincidence and consistent policy. Rob Tomesen at Vestas Nederland notes that much of the new capacity was built in Flevoland, where several projects years in development finally cleared the red tape at the same time.

Wind Service Holland's veteran wind observer, Jaap Langenbach, gives the coincidence theory a more positive spin. "We are now reaping the fruits of six years of consistent policy," he says, pointing to the end of direct investment subsidies in 1995 and the subsequent introduction of a green certificate trading system bolstered by an ecotax levied on grey power making green power a relatively attractive option. The latest wind plants are the first generation to have been financed under this market orientated renewables support system, he points out.

Soaring demand

In short, soaring demand for green power -- some 1.3 million Dutch households had switched by year-end -- coupled with limited domestic renewables reserves, plus physical limits on green power imports led to a buoyant market for green power certificates, which provided a strong incentive for wind development.

There has been no shortage of private capital for investment. Of the year's five largest new wind stations, all but one involved capital from local farmers. The year's largest project, the 22.5 MW Nordex plant built by wind newcomers BP and Chevron/Texaco on the grounds of their Nerefco oil refinery in Rotterdam, was the main exception to this general pattern. More typical was the Ouderlandertocht station near Middenmeer in Noord Holland, a joint initiative of power company NUON and local farmers which, as part of the Wieringermeer wind farm, had been in planning for eight years.

The regional distribution (table) clearly illustrates the importance of the Flevoland factor in the Dutch wind explosion. Flevoland now accounts for some 40% of the national wind total. The region, reclaimed from the waters of the IJsselmeer lake, consists of open and largely agricultural land, but its wind success is not just due to geography. A unique political mix has much to do with it. A strong agricultural lobby combines with environmental concerns to provide almost universal support for wind development. Flevoland has now far exceeded its 220 MW target agreed under the Netherlands national accord, BLOW, raising questions about future development. According to Jan van den Berg, the official charged with reviewing the province's wind plan, no sudden reversal of policy is imminent. But he points out that a demographic shift towards Almere could undermine the pro-wind consensus.


Outside Flevoland, strong growth was seen in Zuid Holland (0.85 MW in 2001), Noord Holland, (11.82 MW, 2001), Noord Brabant (0 MW, 2001) and Zeeland (1.98 MW, 2001). Friesland was the only province to install less than its 5.46 MW in 2001.

Vestas' Tomesen reports a slight improvement in the speed of the permit application process as more provinces grow accustomed to dealing with wind farm applications. He also notes that inland provinces such as Utrecht and Gelderland are now developing detailed wind plans along the lines of Flevoland's 1994 provincial wind plan.

Among turbine manufacturers, Vestas well and truly wrested the top spot from NEG Micon to become runaway market leader, installing 127 MW (95 turbines) against Nordex's 27 MW (15 turbines). Vestas looks set to continue that trend into 2003 with the first Dutch project of the year. In total the Dutch division of the Danish manufacturer is expecting to build some 150 MW in the Netherlands and Belgium over 2003. It currently holds orders for around 60 of the V52 850 kW model and for 21 of the V66, 1.75 MW unit for onshore locations, says Tomesen.

NEG Micon holds orders for some 50-60 MW of new projects in Flevoland at Zeewolde, on the Maasvlakte to the south of Rotterdam, and in the southern Netherlands, says sales manager Ton Huisman. Siemens Nederland, a supplier of turnkey projects and a wind plant operator, expects to deliver 13.5 MW of GE Wind technology to a site at Slufterdijk for Nuon this year along with eight 750 kW Lagerwey turbines for a project at Ulketocht, Noord Holland. Siemens is also optimistic that it will finally secure a building permit for the long awaited Delfzijl Oosterhorn wind farm to be built for power company Essent. Depending on the choice of turbine model, this should come in at around 56 MW. "We expect to begin construction late this year for completion in 2004," says Siemens' Bernard Bos. "We have now taken the final steps towards acquiring a building permit."

Apart from spectacular growth, 2002 was also a year of unprecedented policy turmoil with a new government kicking off its short term in office by taking an axe to the existing renewables support structures (Windpower Monthly, December 2002). After a deal of agony, the government has settled on an Environmental Electricity Production incentive, the MEP, to replace its "market pull" subsidy to green power buyers. The MEP proposed rates are EUR 0.049/kWh for onshore wind and EUR 0.068/kWh for offshore wind. They are due to be implemented this month pending EU approval. While most regard the MEP as satisfactory, it remains to be seen if the political uncertainty which has silenced wind development activity since June carries over into this year. But with (yet another) general election in January producing a swing back to the consensus politics of the centre-left -- generally regarded as favourable to renewables -- the outlook for Dutch wind seems to be reasonably positive.

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