On the verge of a true commercial market -- Sweden moving off the mark

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It was a mixed year for Sweden in its pursuit of a robust wind industry. The country's sustainability minister Mona Sahlin did more than her share to boost both confidence in wind's promise and plan actions to lower barriers to approval of new projects. She stumped for wind all over the country and made the daring promise that Sweden would be oil independent by 2020, saying wind should play a key role. She was also instrumental in forming a wind development task force, drawing together all the recalcitrant ministries (defence, environment, planning) which continue to bog down a streamlined project approval process.

On the ground, wind capacity grew from 442 MW at the start of the year to 492 MW -- an 11% increase and slightly better than 2004's 10.6%, but well shy of the stated goal of 300-400 MW new wind plant each and every year. Try as they might, the Swedes have yet to make wind even 1% of national generation capacity -- they are currently at 0.92% -- let alone make significant strides towards the renewables goal of 15 TWh by 2016.

A disappointment is the recently announced indefinite delay of a common Norwegian-Swedish market for trade of green power certificates. Internal political dissent among Norway's coalition government makes the 2007 start date for the cross border market look ever more unlikely (Windpower Monthly, February 2006).

Last year's wind power production in Sweden was 890 GWh, just about the level predicted a year ago. So is Sweden busy knocking down the last of the hurdles before it hits the big time in wind production, or is it stuck spinning (too few) wind mills? The former, says ever-optimistic Matthias Rapp of the Swedish Wind Investors and Developers Association.

"We can easily reach 300 MW in 2007 and thereafter," Rapp says, adding that 2007 will be a very important year. "Of course nothing is guaranteed, but just with Lillgrund, Bondön and Uuljaboda going online, we'll get where we need to be," he says referring to one offshore and two major onshore projects in the works.

While Vattenfall's 120 MW Lillgrund will be the first larger Swedish offshore project to go online in years, both Bondön (27-36 MW) and Uuljaboda (25 MW) are in the far north, where many larger projects are being cited. Land-based projects have become profitable in Sweden, according to Magnus Blumer from the sustainability ministry, so developers continue to scour for new sites in the less-populous north. Plans in the northwest province of Dalarna are a huge success story, says Staffan Nikolsson of Vindkompaniet, headquartered in Mörbylånga. "Nothing large is up yet, but one locally owned turbine with great productivity created a positive local outlook and as a result, faster handling of applications," he says. Involvement of that region's 12 smaller utilities was also key, he adds.

More of the same

For this year Rapp predicts more or less the same amount of wind plant construction -- 60 MW -- as last year. Moving into a bigger league depends in part on changes to the rules governing Sweden's green certificates market and to its project-approval system, changes that are supposed to go into law this year. Stability of the green certificates market is the first goal, says Blumer, as well as renewables mandates to drive the market for certificates that both industry and wind developers can live with. To speed up approvals, a proposed law would require wind development to be part of local planning documents.

While these changes will not effect wind development this year, they are important for developers' psyches. "There is still insecurity in the marketplace," says Mats Swensson of the Swedish office of veteran British wind developer, Renewable Energy Systems. RES Skandinavien is based in Östersund. "We need to go away from all the uncertainties to make it possible to achieve our goals."

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