Foreign companies face full costs -- Legal action threatened

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WattPlus, the Flemish subsidiary of Dutch power company Essent, is threatening to launch legal action against the Flanders government over its plans to restrict free access to its low voltage grid. The Flemish electricity market opens to competition on July 1, 2003.

Under the plans, free access will only be granted to domestic green power generators. Foreign companies importing green power into Flanders will be charged full network costs. As a result, Wattplus argues, companies relying on imported green power are likely to be priced out of the market.

The company accuses the Flemish government of proposing discriminatory legislation which will effectively block the sale of Dutch green power to Belgian households. Its parent company, Essent, has already reserved enough of its GroeneStroom green power, generated in Holland, to supply 200,000 Flemish families from July. Moreover, WattPlus is marketing it to the Flemish market at prices which assume free grid access and which are thus competitive with grey power. If the Flemish regional government does not revise its proposal, WattPlus will take its complaint to Flanders' highest administrative court, says the company's Andre Jurres.

According to the Flemish government's Gery van Lommel, there has never been any question of foreign green power being given free access to the Flemish grid. "It was always the intention to stimulate Flemish renewables development," he says. "It is not the intention that Flemish electricity users subsidise Dutch green power."

Without imported power, however, there will be no green electricity to sell in July. The green certificates arising from the limited amount of renewable energy currently generated in Flanders are being snapped up by power companies operating under a 1.2% renewables mandate, says Van Lommel.

Like Essent, Dutch power marketer Nuon is also keen to establish a foothold in the Flemish market and hopes to supply power to meet the renewables mandate. However, Nuon says it plans to develop production capacity in the region, including a 90 MW project planned for Antwerp harbour. "We are always on the look out for creative solutions and have no plans to oppose the new legislation," says a Nuon spokesperson.

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