By Christian Kjaer, CEO, European Wind Energy Association
When a huge business opportunity is staring you in the face, it would be foolish to look the other way.
It is essential that the Dutch government does not make this mistake.
The Netherlands is a leading player in the onshore wind energy sector and, with its onshore expertise and the impressive winds blowing off its shores, it could lead in offshore wind too.
In 2010, the Netherlands’ offshore wind sector generated over €1 billion and 2,200 jobs . This could go up to 11,000 jobs in 2020 if The Netherlands develops a domestic market for offshore wind energy. Dutch companies are already present in offshore wind in other countries: the Dutch offshore wind sector has contributed to every existing offshore wind farm in Europe.
And yet, last year the Dutch government turned away from these 11,000 potential jobs. It cut financing for offshore wind projects. It put a sector with massive potential at risk in order to save money in the short term. But the cost of offshore wind energy is coming down. European Commission figures predict a gradual but steady decrease up to 2030, and the more money is invested in research and technology, the quicker this decrease could take place.
Despite its decision on financing, the Dutch government clearly realises the importance of the encouraging the sector to innovate to bring down prices: a ‘Green Deal’ was signed in October with the Dutch Wind Energy Association (NWEA) on the financing of offshore wind test projects. Part of the Green Deal is also a business coalition, and this week, the list of companies that will join this business coalition will be announced. The Green Deal is a perfect way to make the technology more cost efficient – the aim is for a 40% price decrease by 2020 - and push the Dutch industry forward.
From 1974 to 2002, just 1% of researching funding in OECD countries went to wind energy. Yet today onshore wind energy is competitive with new gas and coal plants. That’s an impressive return on investment. Offshore wind energy can repeat the success of its onshore cousin, but it needs increased R&D support. The Dutch ‘Green Deal’ is a good start.
This week the proof of the offshore wind energy sector’s importance across Europe – and its potential for the Netherlands - will be unmissable, as over 7,000 experts descend on Amsterdam to attend a specialist event organised by the European Wind Energy Association. Over 100 of the 400 registered exhibitors – more than 25% - are Dutch companies.
The government has taken a step in the right direction. It now needs to ensure it maintains that direction by strengthening its offshore policy and putting the financing in place which will enable The Netherlands to seize the offshore wind energy business opportunity.
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