Yesterday, 22 March 2016, the Dutch Senate passed an emergency bill amending the Electricity Act (‘Wijziging Elektriciteitswet 1998 (tijdig realiseren doelstellingen Energieakkoord’)). The formal name of the bill refers to the government objective to ensure timely realisation of goals set in the National Energy Agreement (you can read more about the National Energy Agreement in our Energy News Alert of September 2013). To realize one of the most important goals, which is to establish a 16%-share of renewable energy in 2023, the Minister of Economic Affairs (hereinafter: ‘MEA’) submitted an extensive legal package to Parliament last year. However, a heated discussion between the Senate and the MEA on the unbundling requirements in that legal package resulted in a rejection of that bill last December 2015.

On 3 February 2016 the MEA introduced a stripped-down ‘emergency bill’ (without the complete overhaul and merger of both energy acts into one Electricity and Gas Act) to the Second Chamber of Parliament. In order to avoid any further delays, this emergency bill only amends the current Electricity Act to change and insert certain provisions to facilitate and enhance both on- and offshore wind energy.

Changes in legislation

The most important changes of this emergency bill are (in short) the formal designation of TenneT TSO as operator for the offshore electricity grid allowing TenneT to operate a high-voltage system in the Dutch Exclusive Economic Zone in the North Sea. Other technical changes include: inserting and amending definitions to bring them in line with wind energy requirements. Furthermore, some specific general administrative law procedures are now applicable to on- and/or offshore wind projects. And finally, amendments were included to provisions on tariff regulation again in view of (offshore) wind energy.

Newly inserted provisions are inter alia: i) provisions on so-called development framework (‘ontwikkelkader’) (which (in the rejected bill of last year) was previously introduced as ‘scenario’. This framework is to be adopted by the MEA and consists of guidelines for both the offshore wind farm developer and the offshore grid operator); ii) inserted provisions on damages in case of delay of completion of the offshore electricity grid by TenneT as well as rights of compensation when the offshore electricity grid is not available, and iii) provisions on subsidy regarding the offshore grid operator.

What’s next?

The MEA already announced in his letter to Parliament of 22 January 2016 that after timely acceptance of the bill, the emergency act will most likely enter into force on the 1st of April 2016. This is the first entry into force date possible. If this is the case, the first (Borssele I) tender can open in the beginning of April 2016 and will close in May 2016.

The following regulations will also enter into force on the same date (or shortly after this date) as the emergency act:

  • Entry into force of the Site decisions Borssele I and II
  • The Offshore Wind Energy Regulation 2015 (‘Regeling windenergie op zee 2015’)
  • The Offshore Wind Energy Implementation Regulation 2015 (‘Uitvoeringsregeling windenergie op zee 2015’)
  • Start opening first Offshore Wind Tender (reportedly envisaged 8 April 2016 – 12 May 2016)