Introduction

On March 22 2016 the Senate passed an emergency bill amending the Electricity Act. The formal name of the bill, Wijziging Elektriciteitswet 1998 (tijdig realiseren doelstellingen Energieakkoord), refers to the government objective to ensure timely realisation of the goals set out in the National Energy Agreement (for further details please see "ACM examines Dutch Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth"). To realise one of the most important goals of increasing renewable energy production to 16% by 2023, the minister of economic affairs submitted an extensive legal package to Parliament in 2015. However, a heated discussion between the Senate and the minister on the unbundling requirements in the legal package resulted in its rejection in December 2015.

On February 3 2016 the minister introduced a stripped-down emergency bill (without the complete overhaul and merger of both energy acts into one Electricity and Gas Act as originally proposed) to the Second Chamber of Parliament. In order to avoid further delays, the emergency bill amends only the existing Electricity Act, changing and inserting certain provisions to facilitate and enhance both on and offshore wind energy.

Legislative changes

The most important change introduced by the emergency bill is the formal designation of TenneT TSO as operator of 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;
  • making specific general administrative law procedures applicable to on or offshore wind projects; and
  • further amending tariff regulation provisions in view of offshore wind energy.

Newly inserted provisions are, among other things:

  • provisions on the so-called 'development framework' (ontwikkelkader, introduced in the rejected bill as 'scenario'). This framework is to be adopted by the minister and consists of guidelines for both the offshore wind farm developer and TenneT;
  • damages provisions in case of a delay in the completion of the offshore electricity grid by TenneT, as well as rights of compensation when the offshore electricity grid is unavailable; and
  • subsidy provisions regarding TenneT.

Latest developments

On March 31 2016 the emergency act was published in the Bulletin of Acts and Decrees. The act entered into force on April 1 2016 (as envisaged by the Ministry of Economic Affairs). Also published was the Decree on Damages in Case of Unavailability of the Offshore Grid, which contains further provisions (following the ancillary provisions in the emergency act) relating to TenneT's liability for damages due to delayed completion of the offshore electricity grid or unavailability of the offshore electricity grid.

The entry into force of the emergency act will also mark the opening of the first offshore wind tender (Borssele I and II). While the definitive site decisions for Borssele I and II had not been made at the time of writing, the tender application forms for Site I or II (or a joint application form for both sites) are already available online (in Dutch only). According to the website of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, interested parties should submit an application form (including annexes) in print, by appointment, between April 11 2016 and 5:00pm on May 12 2016.

For further information please contact Roland de Vlam or Max WF Oosterhuis at Loyens & Loeff NV by telephone (+31 20 578 5785) or email (roland.de.vlam@loyensloeff.com or max.oosterhuis@loyensloeff.com). The Loyens & Loeff website can be accessed at www.loyensloeff.com.

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