Utility calls for more government action

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The Dutch government needs to rethink its planning regulations and streamline bureaucratic procedures if it is to stand any chance of meeting its renewable energy targets, warns NUON, one of the country's most progressive utilities, in its second annual report on renewables.

Presenting the report, NUON's head of renewables, Annemarie Goedemakers, says Dutch installed wind capacity edged up by just 25 MW (about 8%) last year, compared with increases of 20-50% in countries such as Germany, Denmark and Spain. At this rate the Netherlands is unlikely to meet even the modest target it has set itself of 10% of national energy requirements from renewable resources by 2020, she believes.

"There is widespread support for renewable energy, but we are simply not succeeding in realising our goals," she says. "We badly need a detailed master plan for the 1000 MW [wind] target set by the government."

NUON believes the main obstacle is the difficulty in obtaining planning permission for wind turbines. A second hurdle is the subsidy procedure, which frequently leads to delays of more than a year. Goedemakers says the government pays too little attention to economies of scale in the renewables sector. Rather than ensuring the rapid installation of large numbers of wind turbines and solar panels, authorities tended to stimulate the development of individual projects with special applications, she argues. "Not only does that have a negative impact on the price of renewable energy and large scale capacity installation, but it also negatively affects our export position." She adds: "We've already lost the wind energy market to the Danes and now we run the risk of betting on the wrong horse as regards solar energy."

Of the 30 MW of new wind capacity in 1997, some 16 MW was built in NUON's distribution area of Gelderland, Flevoland and Friesland. The utility recently upped its own target of 5% of distributed energy from renewables by 2000 to 10% by 2010. "This year we laid down in our policy program that NUON wants to maintain its existing lead position into the millennium," NUON states.

The utility currently generates 2.5% of energy from renewables, compared with a national average of 1%. This represents a 0.5% increase year-on-year, following the addition of ten solar energy plants and its "near-shore" wind farm in the IJsselmeer of 28 Danish Nordtank turbines of 600 kW each. According to its annual report, NUON has invested a total of some NLG 300 million in renewables since 1987. It plans investments in the sector totalling around NLG 1 million in 1998.

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