Netherlands

Netherlands

Permitting still the problem -- Slow but steady

Another disappointing year in Dutch wind development reveals red tape issues such as obtaining planning licences and building permits are seriously hindering wind power in the Netherlands. With an estimated 600 MW worth of projects in the pipeline and banks desperate to find eligible projects in which to invest record levels of green fund finance, the Dutch wind market should be going from strength to strength. Instead, provisional figures for 2000, showing the addition of just 39 MW and bringing the national total to some 444 MW, suggest a market caught in suspended animation, if not in decline. Although there are several big projects in the pipeline, structurally, little looks likely to change.

Obtaining planning licences and building permits are still the major hurdles for wind power in the Netherlands. "A lack of projects is not the problem, finance is not the problem, selling green electricity is not the problem," says Peter Niermeijer of NEWIN, the Dutch wind energy alliance. But siting of wind turbines is. Niermeijer was assessing another disappointing year for Dutch wind development.

With an estimated 600 MW worth of projects in the pipeline and banks desperate to find eligible projects in which to invest record levels of green fund finance (page 19), the Dutch wind market should be going from strength to strength. Instead, provisional figures for 2000, showing the addition of just 39 MW and bringing the national total to some 444 MW, suggest a market caught in suspended animation, if not in decline.

Since the end of subsidies in 1995, Dutch wind has bumped along adding 40-45 MW each year, more or less doubling the annual growth under the subsidy regime but never achieving the spectacular take-off necessary to meet ambitious government targets, once set at 1000 MW by 2000.

Jaap 't Hooft of renewable energy agency Novem gives a more positive interpretation to the sequence, arguing that, apart from the exceptional circumstances brought about by the rush to complete subsidised projects in 1995, the Dutch market is characterised by "slow and steady growth." He concedes, however, that "something needs to happen" if Dutch wind is to be brought back on course to meet Novem's target of 100 MW installed capacity annually.

Dutch DILEMMA

'T Hooft also agrees with Niermeijer that the biggest problem currently facing Dutch wind is red tape, or more specifically, bringing local councils in line with central government policy. Here there can be no quick fix, he says. "The top-down, authoritarian approach of Germany and Denmark won't work in the Netherlands. The power of local planning lies with the local community and you can't change that, it's something we have to live with." But there is light at the end of the tunnel, he believes. "A lot of provinces are now drawing up development plans which take into account wind energy, and then we have to wait until that trickles down to the local councils -- that's an important positive sign."

As an example of successful co-operation, 't Hooft can point to the province of Flevoland. It has now exceeded the target covenanted with central government (table). Flevolands' dominance this year was again due to the activities of utility NUON, which added the 16.5 MW "Windpark Jaap Rodenburg," named in honour of the late Greenpeace renewable energy campaigner, to its wind portfolio. With ten 1.65 MW Vestas V66 turbines, the Jaap Rodenburg was the year's largest project and also the only one to be utility financed.

Gloomy

Beyond Flevoland, however, the picture remains gloomy. The long-mooted, giant NUON/ENW sponsored Amsteldijk wind farm planned for the inland waters of the IJsselmeer is still officially under review, but is unlikely to be built, say industry insiders. This leaves the provinces of Friesland and Noord Holland with serious shortfalls on the installed capacity targets agreed with government. Noord Holland is actively looking to develop inland sites, such as the Vestas equipped, 6.6 MW Amsterdam-West wind farm -- the year's second largest project. But Friesland continues without an effective wind development policy.

With the year's two largest projects to its credit, Vestas climbed from last year's second spot to head the manufacturer's league table with 78% of swept area from 35 turbines with a combined capacity of 31.45 MW. In second spot was last year's runaway leader NEG Micon, which this year accounted for just 10% of new swept area from five new turbines (3.7 MW). Bonus came in third, claiming 6% of the year's new swept area provided by six new turbines (2.09 MW).

Enron Wind boosted the Zuid Holland total with its first 1.5 MW turbine in the Netherlands at Zoetemeer. Vestas also introduced its first 850 kW unit to the Dutch market. Flevoland was again the province of choice with a site near Kraggenberg.

The year ahead

For 2001, NEG Micon looks to be making an early bid to reclaim poll position in the manufacturer's league. It has eight, 900 kW units going into the ground near Lelystad in Flevoland in the first two months of the year.

But there are no obvious indications that the Dutch market is set for a dramatic take off. "It's impossible to predict what will happen in 2001," says 't Hooft. "I'm fairly certain we'll see another 50 MW installed, but it could just as easily be 100 MW, there's a lot of big projects in the pipeline, and, of course, the trend generally is to larger projects."

Structurally, little looks likely to change. Onshore, any significant improvement in local planning conditions will in all probability only occur gradually over the next few years -- despite ministerial threats of direct intervention. Offshore, 2001 should see significant progress towards the realisation of the government sponsored "Nearshore Windfarm," with final selection of the consortium scheduled for late autumn following announcement of the selection criteria in May/June.

Mounting demand for green electricity after liberalisation on April 1, combined with a huge surplus of green funds following changes in the tax regulations, may have some impact on the rate of project development, but the planning hurdle still looks insurmountable.

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