Hints at shift in policy direction

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Dutch government claims that individual power consumers would have to pay EUR 1000 annually to finance a program of offshore wind development were mistaken concedes economy minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst. Brinkhorst withdrew the claim, which he made on national radio in the Netherlands to justify his decision to suspend subsidies on new offshore projects (Windpower Monthly, June 2005), during parliamentary questions.

The government inflated the cost of offshore wind by assuming that each of the 70 applications now registered for construction of wind farms in the waters of the Dutch Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) would be realised at a cost to the individual tax payer of EUR 15 for each project. Brinkhorst later acknowledged that it was wrong of the government to presume that all 70 project proposals, many for overlapping sites, would be developed.

He now claims that 43 projects would be built under the now suspended market framework at a cost of EUR 650 per consumer. The wind industry remains incredulous that so much wind power is about to be constructed in Dutch waters. It believes that only 25 separate projects will emerge from the current rush to gain licenses -- and that of these only a handful will be built in the short to medium term.

During a parliamentary exchange with Diederik Samsom from the opposition Labour party, the PvdA, Brinkhorst of the centre right D66 also denounced alarmist claims that he was taking an axe to renewable energy. In his defence he outlined his proposed increases in the renewables budget to 2010, starting at EUR 500 million in 2005, rising to EUR 600 million next year, EUR 650 million in 2007, EUR 700 million in the two following years and ending at EUR 800 million in 2010.

Significantly, however, Brinkhorst says he is opposed to subsidising 40 wind farms all using the same technology as he wishes to use the available money to stimulate technological development. It is thus better to proceed more cautiously. His opinion chimes with rumours that the Dutch energy policy review due this summer will see an increased emphasis on meeting environmental targets through energy efficiency and investment in technological innovation rather than direct investment in renewable power production.

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