A slow market still dominated by uncertainty -- Belgian targets missed

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Growth in the Belgium wind market remains steady, if not spectacular. Installation of new plant in 2004 amounted to 17 turbines in four projects with a combined capacity of 29.4 MW. They brought the country's total wind capacity to 97 MW, according to provisional figures for the year. Most development was accounted for by the 12 MW Hoogstraten wind farm of Vestas 2 MW turbines developed by Electrabel Green Projects Flanders, an offshoot of the large Belgian utility Electrabel. Hoogstraten was part financed by a bond issue of EUR 1 million, which is aimed at allowing local residents to participate in various "green energy" projects. It sold out within 48 hours.

All being well, this year is expected to see around 50 MW of wind development, with six projects scheduled for completion by the end of 2005. The largest is for 22 MW at Ghent harbour in Flanders. Planned by power producer SPE, it will use 11 Enercon 2 MW machines.

All projects in Flanders, however, could be put on ice as a result of the ongoing dispute about the structure of the region's market for green electricity certificates, warns Flemish renewables agency ODE Vlaanderen. The three year old market was sent into a tail spin after a judicial review suspended its operation on the grounds it was not accepting certificates from the Wallonian and Brussels regions of Belgium. The problem is one of compatibility -- Flemish certificates are awarded for each megawatt hour of green electricity generated while the other two regions base their certificates on emissions saved.

Having failed to meet the national target for 2% of electricity supply to come from renewables by 2004, the Flemish government is scrambling to re-jig the system in order to meet its next target of 6% renewables by 2010. With certificates for 2004 due to be submitted for audit by the end of this month, time is short. The Flemish certificate regulator, VREG, reports it is being inundated with questions about the funding of renewable energy projects.

Even so, despite the uncertainty and irrespective of an earlier decision to even the markets up by ending the free transport of locally produced green power in Flanders, Enercon's Bernard Fink is optimistic the situation will not interrupt what he sees as the generally positive development of the Belgian market. "The fact that in Flanders wind turbines can only be built on industrial sites or public areas, such as alongside roads or canals, means that the real potential lies in the region of Wallonia where agricultural land can also be used," he says. "I think it is there that we will see the real activity in the coming years."

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