New incentive laws but tough criteria -- Croatia sets 360 MW cap

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While plans for around 1500 MW of wind capacity are seeking approval in Croatia, development is to be capped at just 360 MW, including existing projects. The country's electricity transmission system operator, HEP-Operator Prijenosnog Sustava (HEP-OPS), says under current circumstances any more wind plant would put system security at risk. With 17.2 MW already online and a further 11 MW due soon, this means that just under 332 MW of new capacity will be accommodated.

Three laws

The news comes less than a month after Croatia's government passed three laws to stimulate renewable energy development. It is aiming to increase the share of electricity sourced from renewables from 0.6% in 2002 to 5.8% in 2010, placing obligations on utilities to buy a minimum proportion of power from renewable energy sources. The fixed tariff for wind power under the new law is HRK 0.64/kWh (EUR 0.08/kWh) for the first 12 years of operation. To fund its full renewables plan, electricity consumers will be levied an extra HRK 0.89/kWh (EUR 0.12/kWh) on their electricity bills from July. This will gradually increase to HRK 2/kWh (EUR 0.27/kWh) in 2010.

The decision to put a limit on wind development, which is supported by the ministry of economy and labour, follows a study by energy institute Hrvoje Pozar. Croatian electricity system operator HEES says it can accommodate no more than 400 MW of new wind plant.

HEP-OPS has published a set of criteria for selecting projects to be connected to the network. Project proposals will be ranked according to how they meet each criteria, which includes having already gained preliminary approval for connection to the grid, date of application, status of its spatial plan for land use and environmental impact, local community approval, and degree of readiness to move forward by the project developers.

According to HEP-OPS' latest list of candidates (table), the front runners so far seem to be developer Valalta, which is planning the Vratarusa wind farm in the district of Lika-Senj. It has preliminary approval for 42 MW. Valalta is joined by EKO Energetski Konsalting with advanced proposals for a cluster of projects in the Zagreb district totalling at least 54 MW and around 30 MW in the Split-Dalmatia district, and by Enersys with plans for 18 MW in Dubrovnik.

Once the 360 MW limit is reached, HEP-OPS will stop issuing any preliminary approval notices. Plans for grid expansion are already underway, however. The system operator says that after the 360 MW mark has been achieved it will conduct annual reviews of the situation and announce how much new wind plant could be permitted each year. The Hrvoje Pozar institute expects Croatia's installed wind capacity to reach around 400 MW by 2010 at the earliest.

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