On 1 July Germany began its Presidency of the Council of the EU. Germany has made offshore wind the main energy policy priority for its six-month term. And with good reason: offshore wind is the sleeping giant of Europe’s energy mix
Tapping into this resource will enhance the way we power our homes, businesses and economies. Here is how to make it work.
The EU says Europe needs around 20 times as much offshore wind as we have today to meet the goal of decarbonising its economy. 450 GW in 2050, up from 22 GW today.
The International Energy Agency believes offshore wind could become the number one source of power generation in Europe in the early 2040s. These numbers are huge but do-able and affordable.
To deliver on these expansion targets there are several key steps to take. 2020 will be the year to introduce the policies that will help us to get there. In October, the EU Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy will define a new framework for offshore wind.
The good news is that the German EU Presidency Programme recognises the key role that the rapid expansion of offshore wind has to play in achieving the EU’s ambitious renewable energy targets and ensuring security of energy supply.
Germany plans to advance the work on a framework for joint offshore wind projects between countries, so called ‘hybrid’ projects which go beyond one single grid connection from the windfarm to the mother country. But there is more the EU Offshore Strategy needs to get right.
Firstly, the EU needs to align Maritime Spatial Planning with climate change goals. This means putting Europe’s climate goals at the centre of the conversation when deciding on site availability in our seas. It means establishing co-operation mechanisms to ensure alignment between countries, proper regulatory guidance and funding research on the co-use of windfarm areas with other economic sectors like fishing and shipping.
The success of offshore wind depends on a happy co-existence with other economic activities such as aquaculture, fisheries and tourism. This means improving our knowledge of offshore wind’s environmental impacts and mitigating them. This requires harmonising the methodologies for carrying out environmental impact assessments across member states, with a specific focus on data collection and sharing. And we must ensure that actions in the Biodiversity Strategy allow for the co-existence of wind energy, restoration, and conservation activities, including marine protected areas.
And Europe needs to step up power grid investments and facilitate their permitting. The EU Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy must provide a master plan for deploying 450 GW of offshore wind including the grids. This will help industry make the necessary investment.
We need to start connecting offshore windfarms to more than one country and use hubs for hybrid offshore windfarms. This saves money and gives more flexible power flows in the energy market.
Offshore wind will also play a key role in the production of renewable hydrogen to decarbonise Europe’s hard-to-abate sectors. Publication of the EU’s Energy Sector Integration Strategy will give the policy direction with a roadmap for scaling-up and reducing the cost of renewable hydrogen, particularly offshore. Clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the market and regulated players in the production of hydrogen will be essential.
Acting on offshore wind is a matter of urgency. We already have deadlines in place: we need to ensure the delivery of the Clean Energy Package. Now the EU must support member states to fine-tune detailed policy measures in their 2030 National Energy and Climate Plans.
There should be clear incentives for member states to deliver higher volumes of renewables based on the EU’s Recovery Plan from Covid-19 and an updated 2030 GHG emissions target. Finally, we should establish the Renewable Energy Financing Mechanism to enable countries without a seashore to participate in offshore wind projects through cross-border co-operation.
There are oceans of opportunity available to Europe – and we have first mover advantage here. Offshore wind was developed in Europe, European companies are driving the global expansion and Europe has ideal conditions to remain a world leader in the energy transition by harnessing the potential of offshore wind.
Offshore wind will be key to securing Europe’s energy future. But that means acting today. The political actions taken in the second half of 2020 will be decisive for the next decades to come.
Giles Dickson is WindEurope chief executive