Last minute stumbling block for NFFO bids

Britain's Office of Electricity Regulation (OFFER) has been accused of making "totally unreasonable" demands on wind developers applying for premium priced contracts in the next round of renewables support . Thirteen corporate members of the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) have written to protest at OFFER's last minute request for further information to back up their applications for contracts under the fourth tranche of the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO-4).

Two demands in particular have infuriated applicants: a request for a detailed site layout and a request for information to back up production figures for the wind turbines. New BWEA Chairman Peter Edwards points out that the minute detail that OFFER demands cannot be given at such an early stage in the development of a wind project. Planners may need to have an input into the eventual layout of turbines -- and exact production figures will depend on the type of turbine chosen. At this stage applicants cannot specify the name of the manufacturer or the machine they will eventually will opt for, he says. "The developer must retain his right to leave his options open. By the time the contract is granted the technology might have moved on."

Warning issued

OFFER's letter was received at the end of September by large and small developers alike. "We have heard of small developers who were panicking quite badly when they received the letter," comments one developer. Another took a different view: "Some of the questions were very sensible and well founded, others were not. But if it means that some of the less serious proposals are weeded out then so be it."

The letter warned: "Please ensure that your responses to the above issues are received by 4 October latest. Failure to adequately respond to these issues will result in your scheme being withdrawn from NFFO-4." This did not give adequate time for a response, complains Edwards. Most people were given no more than ten working days to reply yet they first submitted their technical applications in early June, he says. "OFFER had all that time to pick up these questions. Why did they leave it until the very last minute?"

According to OFFER's Ian Bickley, OFFER officials examining the applications had been willing to discuss extending the deadline with developers. "They have tried to be reasonably flexible. In some cases they have taken a pragmatic view and have reduced their requirements. But a lot of those requirements had been set by the Department of Trade and Industry and it is not in OFFER's jurisdiction to change them."