Determination to make it happen -- Swedish government task force

The Swedish government has appointed a task force made up of staff from a series of ministries to help get its wind power market on the move. The announcement came as the minister for sustainable development, Mona Sahlin, boldly told the international press last month that Sweden would break its dependence on oil by 2020 -- and to achieve that she is counting in great part on a "breakthrough in wind power." Sweden is aiming for 15 TWh of its electricity to come from renewable energies by 2016, about 10% of national electricity production.

The task force, which pulls together secretaries from the ministries of finance, defence, sustainable development, industry, education, and agriculture, will work to influence regional authorities shepherding wind projects though the arduous application and environmental approval process. A separate group within the task force will deal with power grid issues for land-based and offshore wind development.

"We have many different problems to solve," says Magnus Blümer in the sustainable development ministry. "We have our national planning objective, and a wind target, and even good subsidies. But it's not enough. What we've experienced is that it's a hard process to get project permits." Blümer admits that ultimately the task force can only identify roadblocks to putting wind development on a faster track and suggest solutions -- changing the legal system by which permits are issued is not currently on the table.


Director of the Swedish wind power association, Gunnar Fredriksson is bullish on the new task force, however. He points to the success of Britain's "one-stop shop" for gaining offshore wind plant construction permits. "In the best case, what will happen here will be one-stop shop lite -- everyone will be sitting around one table. If it turns out that National Heritage is always the sticking point, well that's going to be made apparent and internal pressure will be put to bear."

Sweden has a decade remaining on its pledge to develop enough wind power to provide 10 TWh of electricity annually by 2015, or about 7% of the country's production. But progress in the three years since the goal was mapped out has been slow. The latest statistics from the Swedish Energy Association put the country's wind output at a bit over 0.8 TWh, or 0.6% of national electricity production.

Certificates flood

Along with announcing the task force, Sahlin's sustainable development ministry acknowledged that the country's green certificates program will be extended, perhaps indefinitely. The ruling coalition government has already agreed in theory to extend the certificates system until 2030.

Fredriksson says the extension is welcome, but it does not solve a fundamental problem of the Swedish market -- an oversupply of green certificates. There are not enough customers for them. Sweden's speedy conversion from coal fired to biofuel boilers has rapidly expanded the pool of available certificates, he says.

In the long term, the government plans to readjust the annual quota for renewable electricity generation for the years 2010 -- 2016 to align with its new, more ambitious goal. But Fredriksson wants an earlier quota adjustment, which he says will strengthen demand for certificates by reducing the current surplus. Bigger demand will drive wind power development. "It's just a technical adjustment. We agree with the end goal, we just favour a steeper curve now in raising the quotas and a milder curve later on," he says. "It's difficult to find the investors right now, the uncertainties are so big."

Blümer acknowledges that certificate supply could be reduced with higher quotas, but says the government is still in the evaluation stage of planning changes, including adjustments to be made when Norway joins Sweden to form a common certificate market in January 2007.

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