Last week again proved to be a busy week, as the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs pushed its renewable agenda forward. It presented its timetable towards the 2015 Energy Report and towards the evaluation of the Energy Accord in 2016. It clarified its plans to reconcile its sustainable agenda with restrictions imposed by competition law. Finally, it published 4 preparatory site decisions to assure availability of the sites and prepare the Borssele offshore wind power generation tenders planned by the end of this year. The Borssele site decisions themselves are planned to be open to objections and appeal as from early August.

Timetable towards the 2015 Energy Report / 2016 evaluation Energy Accord 

The Dutch Government plans to realize a completely renewable energy supply by 2050. The 2013 Energy Accord was a major step towards this goal and runs until 2023. To determine the next steps, the Ministry is preparing the 2015 Energy Report, which will be based on the following policy papers:

Click here to view table.

Reconciliation sustainable actions and competition law  

Various renewable initiatives supported by the Dutch Government require or stimulate the collaboration of market parties. Such private collaborative renewable initiatives may border on concerted practices scrutinized under EU and national competition laws. This creates a risk of legal uncertainty that may thwart market initiatives.

On May 8, last year, the Ministry published its Policy Rules on competition law and sustainability. In these Policy Rules, it stressed that the Dutch competition watchdog, ACM, in making its assessments, should also take into account: (i) general long-term positive technical and economic effects of sustainable initiatives, (ii) negative effects that may occur on the market position or economic gain of parties individually taking sustainable initiatives, and (iii) competition between sustainable goods or services on features other than those related to sustainability. The ACM itself also published a Vision Paper on the subject.

However, recent cases pertaining to sustainable production of poultry, sustainable wages in the manufacturing of clothing and – most notably – the phasing out of four coal-fired power stations as part of the Energy Accord, indicated that the Policy Rules still leave room for clarification and improvement. For that reason, the Policy Rules will be clarified further by the end of this year and will be discussed with the European Commission thereafter to ensure compliance with EU competition law.

Publication preparatory decisions Borssele sites for offshore wind power generation; Publication first draft site decisions by early August – open to objections and appeal 

The preparatory decisions for the four Borssele sites were published last week. These secure that the sites remain suitable for the construction and subsequent operation of wind farms and can be prepared for the tenders by the end of this year, as currently foreseen by the Dutch Government.

The preparatory decisions III and IV allow for the preparation of an innovation site to demonstrate techniques that will reduce the cost price of wind energy at sea. This innovation site will hold two turbines at most and will be tendered separately next year.

Some background: in September 2014 the Dutch Government designated three areas where offshore wind farms will be developed, the first one being the Borssele area consisting of four sites. The area measures about 344 square kilometers and is located outside the Dutch 12 mile zone at the southern border of the Dutch exclusive economic zone, about 0.5 kilometers from the Belgian economic zone. The area holds no oil or gas production platforms. As part of the Act on Wind Power Generation at Sea (which was put on the Statue Book all of three weeks ago) the Dutch Government will take site decisions regarding the sites in the three designated area’s. Such decisions contain the conditions for construction and operation on the sites.

In early August, the first two draft site decisions for the Borssele area will be published and will be open to the filing of objections for a period of six weeks. By the end of November the two definitive site decisions will be published, which will then be open to appeal.