Romania pushes for clarity on wind energy

Strong winds and strong state support: Romania is on its way to becoming wind energy’s paradise. Back in 2008, the Bucharest government agreed on a law to promote renewable energies, which it published in the Romanian government gazette.

However, the European Commission has to approve these plans since they count as state aid. It was not until this summer that the document was submitted to Brussels for signature.

These delays are a huge problem for potential investors who want to support wind power plants. "We are missing a stable legal framework," says Dana Duica, chairwoman of the Romanian Wind Energy Association.

"Many companies have already made very important investment decisions since the law was published in 2008. But now, years later, it has still not been applied."

Despite these starting problems, wind energy has experienced an enormous boom in Romania, one of the economically weakest EU countries.

Compared to 2009 when the installed wind energy capacity was as low as 20 megawatt, it is going to be 1,000 megawatt by the end of 2011, according to the Romanian Wind Energy Association.

More than half of the installed wind farm capacity is located in the Tomis Team Dobrogea Wind Farm close to the Romanian Black Sea coast. It is roughly the equivalent of the installed capacity of a nuclear power plant.

This on-shore wind farm is currently the largest in Europe and was built by the Czech enterprise CEZ. There are already more than 10 new wind farms in Dobrogea, the windy coastal region in southeast Romania.

The most important investors are the Portuguese Energias de Portugal Group and Enel Green Power, which is the green power subsidiary of the Italian electricity giant Enel.

Many Western European companies are hoping to place profitable investments in the Romanian wind energy sector. Austria’s largest energy group Verbund has already started building a wind farm close to the Romanian Black Sea coast and the Spanish Iberdrola wants to build the largest on-shore wind farm of the world in this region – with a capacity of 1,500 megawatt.

Potentially, wind energy could provide electricity for one quarter of the eight million households in Romania. Due to the new wind systems the Romanian energy price went up by 2.3 percent this year, says Dana Duica.

"In the beginning electricity will be a little more expensive but after a while prices will stabilize and, after that, even decrease again," she says.