Offshore renewable energy constitutes an important element of the ongoing shift from fossil fuels to more sustainable forms of energy production, in order to reduce CO2 emissions and fight global climate change. Indeed, offshore wind energy installations are growing at a rate of nearly 20 per cent annually worldwide and are recognised as a key element in achieving emission reduction targets.
So writes Brussels-based think tank Central Europe Energy Partners (CEEP) in its latest Policy Paper on the prospects for offshore wind development in Central Europe: how to boost offshore energy in the Baltic, Black and Adriatic seas.
The European Commission announced an increase of the greenhouse gas reduction target from 40 per cent to at least 55 per cent by 2030 compared to the level of 1990. Moreover, the EU Long Term Climate Strategy has indicated wind energy as the leading power production technology by 2050.
These led to the EU Strategy on Offshore Renewable Energy which was released in November 2020. The strategy proposes to increase EU’s offshore wind capacity from 12 gigawatts (GW) to at least 60 GW by 2030 and to 300 GW by 2050 to help meet the goal of climate neutrality within this time frame.
CEEP noted that the strategy also aims to promote the scale-up of offshore energy capacity and cross-border cooperation between States on long term planning.
While it emphasised that 67 per cent of wind energy produced in Europe comes from 5 countries (Germany, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and the UK), Central European countries, have also installed important capacity in recent years: Poland (6 GW) ranks 7th among EU countries in terms of total installed wind power capacity and significant wind installations are also in Romania (3 GW). The remaining countries of the region rank lower with their installed capacity below 1 GW: Bulgaria (691 megawatts – MW), Croatia (652 MW), Lithuania (548 MW), Estonia (320 MW) and Latvia (66 MW)2.
Summarising the wind situation, CEEP concluded that the Baltic Sea is the most suitable area to develop offshore wind farms. Also, the common, legally integrated market of the Baltic states creates opportunities for offshore investments to make a significant impact on economic stimulation and the building of new competences.
However, as the offshore wind still remains a capital intensive technology, CEEP considers it crucial to provide relevant financial support to the projects in order to boost its development in the region. While the EU funds can play in this process a key role, a support mechanism for all levels of implementation of offshore wind energy development projects for the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Sea countries seems needed in order to accelerate the preparation of the investments.
Also, given the need to speed up the deployment of offshore renewable energy sources (RES) in the region, it is crucial to provide a clear view on how to shape the EU legislation in this sector for the upcoming decades. The situation in the Baltic and Black Sea offshore sectors will differ significantly from the North Sea and the Mediterranean. Therefore, the new regulations should allow for flexibility to apply to regional or national, tailor-made solutions for each maritime basin in the EU.