The European Commission’s long-awaited EU Offshore Renewable Strategy came out yesterday suggesting an almost thirty-fold increase in the capacity of offshore energy in maritime waters. The large-scale development of offshore capacities will require careful planning, strengthened regional cooperation, extensive infrastructure development, favourable market rules and ample funding.
“We are aiming high, because there is both a clear urgency and a great potential to expanding our offshore renewable energy capacity,” said Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, in charge of the European Green Deal.
The Commission estimates that an investment of almost 800 billion euros is required to scale up offshore capacities to 300 gigawatts (GW) by 2050, which will necessitate targeted use of EU support to unlock the necessary private financial flows.
“I want to specifically highlight the opportunity for Member States to use funds from Next Generation EU to invest in offshore renewable energy and of course, all the infrastructure that comes with it,” highlighted Mr Timmermans adding that to secure this funding, it is crucial that Member States work to develop a pipeline of mature projects, in close cooperation with companies ready to invest.
Europe’s offshore wind industry has an important first-mover advantage and a very strong home market as over 40 per cent of the world’s existing offshore wind capacity is in EU waters and more than 90 per cent of offshore wind capacity in Europe has been produced by EU companies.
Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson underlined that by 2050, renewable energy must power most of Europe’s climate-neutral economy which requires massive amounts of green electricity to replace polluting fossil sources like coal, lignite and gas.
The EU Offshore Renewable Strategy has clear ambitions in this regard. Already by 2030, it plans to increase offshore wind capacity at least five times to 60 GW. The rapid increase of offshore renewable energy is based on the following pillars: forward-looking planning; connection and infrastructure development; supportive market rules and strong cooperation between Member States.
To make sure that clean electricity will be delivered to consumers on land the Commission is currently working on the revision of the TEN-E Regulation, to be delivered later this year, in which they will propose a new framework for offshore grid infrastructure development where Member States could agree on regional long-term commitments for offshore energy generation and a joint vision for grid planning.
The Commission also aims to adapt existing market rules to the needs of offshore installations. The market guidance for hybrid projects published together with the offshore renewables strategy proposes to create offshore bidding zones to ensure that offshore power can flow to the market where it is needed. Furthermore, the Commission will amend the connection codes to adapt to the new offshore developments and next year they plan to review state aid rules for energy and environmental protection and ensure that they support the goals of this strategy.
Scaling up the offshore energy generation in an efficient, cost-effective and sustainable way will mean many more sites for production and connections to the power grid but also increased and coordinated regional planning to exploit all synergies.
Central and Eastern Europe can also benefit from the expansion of offshore wind projects. The Black Sea’s offshore wind is a major economic opportunity in the region to unlock large volumes of low-carbon electricity and deliver on the commitments of the European Green Deal. The technical offshore wind potential for Bulgaria and Romania alone to be more than 100 GW, which amounts only to a fraction of that of the North Sea, however, it equals about five times Romania’s installed electricity generation capacity, while in Ukraine it is two and half times that of Bulgaria and Romania combined.
The Baltic Sea region also aspires to fully exploit offshore wind potentials. A month ago, Energy Ministers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden have signed a declaration with Commissioner Kadri Simson committing themselves to closer cooperation on offshore wind. The Baltic Sea’s potential for offshore wind power can reach up to 93 GW.
However, countries without direct access to the sea are also part of the growing value chain. Offshore renewable energy industry can offer new opportunities for regions that are most affected by the transition to a climate neutral economy, the EU wished to support this process through the Just Transition Mechanism and Fund.