Netherlands: Bid to exclude grid-congested areas from subsidy fails to stem solar tide

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A member of the Netherlands government has said moves to exclude renewable energy projects in grid-congested parts of the country from public subsidy has not dampened enthusiasm among solar developers.

Minister for economic affairs and climate policy, Eric Wiebes, wrote in a letter to parliament: “With €9.06 billion in applications [for subsidy] on an available budget of €5 billion, there is a good chance that the budget can be fully utilized.

The minister explained the autumn round of this year’s SDE+ (Stimulering Duurzame Energieproductie) renewable energy incentive program had for the first time included a ‘transportindicatie’ – a transport indication – removing eligibility for subsidies in regions which suffer constraints on electricity grid access.

Grid constraints

In late November three organizations, including PV industry lobby group Holland Solar, asked the Dutch parliament to take action over worsening grid connection problems for renewables projects in the Netherlands. According to the petitioners, around 700 MW of solar and wind project generation capacity allocated under the SDE+ program was in danger of losing payments due to missed grid connection deadlines caused by lack of network capacity.

An update from enterprise agency the Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (RVO) – which manages the incentive scheme – said 7,525 renewables facilities with a total generation capacity of 6,223 MW had applied for funding in the autumn round.

“This subsidy round has therefore shown that the transport indication has not had an inhibiting effect on the number of applications,” Minister Wiebes added. “In contrast, network operators have gained a better understanding of the number of projects that are still in the pipeline in the various regions and market parties have more insight into the locations where there is space on the electricity grid.”

Cost-effective PV

The Ministry of Economy said solar made up 74.7% of the facilities pre-selected for consideration for financial assistance. According to the RVO, the solar plants proposed would require only 48.8% of the available funds. By contrast, wind power projects – which comprise 10.2% of the contracted capacity applying for SDE+ support – would need 15.4% of the budget.

The ministry said solar projects with a total generation capacity of 4,649 MW are under consideration and the RVO indicated wind projects with a capacity of 640 MW are in the running alongside 357 MW of biomass generation, with the 570 MW balance made up from other clean energy technologies.

The solar projects proposed, the RVO stated, would require €4.42 billion of public backing with the wind farms needing €1.39 billion.