Still time for Dutch offshore wind

08 March 2016

Michelle de Rijke, Lars Kyrberg

The Netherlands’ renewable energy targets hinge on long-delayed offshore wind auctions, but there may be just enough time to ensure that they are met, writes Tim Skelton

The Netherlands currently rates among Europe’s worst-performing nations in terms of progress towards its renewables targets, as it holds out for a late surge in offshore wind to reverse its fortunes.

The Dutch have pledged to see 14% of their energy needs covered by renewable sources in 2020, and have a secondary target of 16% by 2023. But recent data from Eurostat show the Netherlands had just 5.5% renewables in 2014, outperforming only Luxembourg and Malta out of all the 28 EU Member States.

The government has bold plans to catch up, and aims to increase the country’s offshore wind capacity from 1 GW to 4.5 GW by 2023. The question is whether that is achievable in time. Setbacks are rife; the first of five annual tenders for new farms was supposed to open last December and close this month, but it has still to be officially launched.

The delay stems from a revision of the Dutch Electricity Act, which included a new offshore wind market framework that would make the government responsible for consents and permits, and transmission system operator TenneT responsible for grid connection. The proposal needs to be passed before the tenders can start, but it has so far been rejected by the Dutch Senate.

Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp submitted his revisions in February. “[These] concentrated on offshore and onshore wind. The text was amended as little as possible to speed up the procedure,” Michelle de Rijke and Lars Kyrberg of legal firm Bird & Bird told NewsBase in a joint statement.

The new proposal was passed by the House of Representatives, but is again facing the Senate. This time, however, De Rijke and Kyrberg think it will fare better, and they point out that the previous objections had nothing to do with renewable energy, but concerned a controversial unbundling paragraph. “Minister Kamp refused to comply with a Senate motion to postpone the unbundling of energy companies Eneco and Delta,” they said. As a result, the Senate “had no statutory alternative to rejecting the entire proposal.”

Kamp has said the Act represents the Netherlands’ only chance of making its 2020 target. While delays have threatened this, De Rijke and Kyrberg think the lost ground can be made up. “If the amendments are accepted before the end of March, the final site decisions for [both the 2015 and 2016 tenders] should be made in April. These tenders will be considered for the 14% target if they are completed this year.”

The first tender (Borssele I and II) is now scheduled to open in April and close in May, and the second (Borssele III and IV) to close in September. “Thus the envisaged completion in 2016 is still within reach.”

While encouraging, other legal hurdles could still derail the plans. “Delays could be caused by the fact that the site decisions are not legally irrevocable, even after the Senate accepts the proposal,” say De Rijke and Kyrberg. “The subsidy decision and the permit can also be objected to, and any subsequent decision on this can be appealed.” However, they added, it is unclear whether this would cause serious delays to the construction of the farms.

Promisingly, it appears that there is still time for the Netherlands to achieve its targets – but it can ill-afford any more setbacks.

Originally published on newsbase.com and republished with kind permission