Minister holds firm as regions waver -- Dutch targets in doubt

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Targets for 1500 MW of wind power on land and 6000 MW offshore by 2010 have been reaffirmed by Dutch energy minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, despite increasingly vocal public opposition to further development. The Netherlands currently has around 1070 MW of wind generating capacity, all of it on land or relatively close to land in sheltered inland waters, generating about 2.2% of national demand.

Brinkhorst says there will be no back-tracking on the commitments made under the 2001 Bestuursovereenkomst Landelijke Ontwikkeling Windenergie (BLOW) regulation, which set specific wind power targets for each province. "All parties to the BLOW agreement have committed themselves to the agreed targets," he told parliament last month.

The policy affirmation comes after the Utrecht branch of the minister's own D66 party declared its opposition to the construction of wind turbines within the province. It argues that with Brinkhorst's decision to lift his government's moratorium on offshore wind development, further onshore development is unnecessary. Political and popular support for new onshore wind farms is declining, according to the Utrecht local party.

Brinkhorst says that new onshore capacity is imperative if the country is to meet its renewables target of 9% by 2010. "Offshore wind farms will only make a significant contribution after that date," says the minister.

Similar sentiments to those expressed in Utrecht are being heard in Limburg where the provincial government is requesting to be freed from its BLOW commitment to build 30 MW by 2010. According to the Limburg Labour party, cooperation with the local authorities is the major problem. The local government, it appears, is unable to push through permits for just 30 MW in the face of opposition from residents.

Endless talk

Bert Kersten, Labour deputy with responsibility for environmental policy, says: "It's true that nothing is being built. The subject of wind is being filibustered in this province. There is endless talk and nothing is ever done. The responsibility for building turbines lies with the local councils, in my opinion.

"As a province we can't do much more than provide the conditions. I'm prepared to have another go at getting existing projects back on track. If that doesn't work then we will have to change our objectives."

Even in Flevoland, the province in the Netherlands with the highest installed wind power capacity, the tide is running against wind. The provincial council has voted to end further wind farm construction from June. The province has already more than doubled its BLOW commitment to build 220 MW. The current tally is some 445 MW, according to industry monitor Wind Service Holland. Applications for new projects made before June in Flevoland will be dealt with under the existing regulations.

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