Crippling lack of political clarity -- Damning Dutch report

Political signals from the Dutch government about the importance of onshore wind energy are "sorely lacking" and there is little clarity about its strategic importance. These are just two of the damning conclusions in a report by the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) into wind power in the Netherlands. The costs and benefits, value and necessity of onshore wind energy are insufficiently clear and are being inadequately communicated, adds TNO.

As a result, a negative public attitude to wind power is hampering development. "The greatest sticking point in this area is the ever better organised and growing public resistance to onshore wind turbines," states TNO. The resistance is making wind energy such a sensitive political dossier that an efficient approach to new projects is being made impossible.

TNO's report examines the government's BLOW covenant from 2001. BLOW is an agreement between all levels of Dutch government, including five government ministries and 12 provincial authorities, to facilitate 1500 MW of wind power capacity on land by 2010. The wheels have ground slowly, however. Municipal-level decisions regarding selection of wind plant siting zones are due to be announced by December 31.

Meantime, the Netherlands' national commitment is expected to be reached, largely due to the efforts of the province of Flevoland, which today is providing about 40% of the national wind energy total. Flevoland has already exceeded its BLOW objective of 220 MW by more than double that amount, with 454 MW realised.

Overall, five provinces will realise their commitment, but TNO states that three will not manage to meet their goals: Friesland, Limburg and Utrecht. Limburg had not put enough political priority on wind energy and Utrecht had a "tardy top-down process, the impact of which has been fatal for wind energy projects," says TNO. Doubts also remain over Overijssel and Gelderland because increasing public resistance is "jeopardising the likelihood of their success."

While the provinces have been doing their best to meet the aims of BLOW, national level activity has been limited, according to the report. Co-ordination between the five government departments is lacking and issues relevant to implementation are being handled inefficiently. National government and the provincial authorities have a duty to communicate the benefits of wind power, the report states. Onshore wind energy has often been compared to nuclear energy and the "fatal consequence" is that local wind energy projects with a high chance of success run into delays or get bogged down.


All development routes cost a great deal of time and energy at local level and too often projects are delayed or there is confusion about their costs and benefits, value and necessity. "It is painful to have to observe" that the public's resistance "feeds primarily on the lack of clarity about the strategic meaning of onshore wind energy at national level." Instead, the discussion should focus on whether the negative aspect of a group of wind turbines in the landscape is outweighed by the benefits of their green generation capacity.

TNO recommends the provincial goals remain in force -- and if a province is unable to realise its quota it must buy capacity from other provinces. As well as more clarity, procedures need to be accelerated through improved coordination and the allocation of less times for siting permit appeals.

TNO concludes by pointing out that there is no follow up to BLOW. Future policy needs to be more convincing and transparent, although the government ambition of 9% renewable electricity production in 2010 is in sight. An early start needs to be made to formulating policy after 2010 -- and political support must be evident at both national and provincial levels.