The nine North Sea countries - Belgium, Ireland, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden - signed the above-mentioned declaration of intent this week in Dublin at the North Sea Energy Cooperation Summit: 260 gigawatts by 2050, with two intermediate milestones: 76 gigawatts in 2030 and 193 gigawatts in 2040. The 2050 Horizon set by the 9 signatories (260 gigawatts) is extraordinarily ambitious, as the European Union as a whole (the EU27) has set 300 gigawatts as the Offshore Wind Target for that year, so the 9 would aim for 85% of that target. The Dublin Declaration of Intent - reports WindEurope, the European industry association - comes just a few months after the one in Esbjerg, Denmark. The Danish city was visited last May by the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz; the Belgian Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo; his Danish counterpart, Mette Frederiksen; and the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte. All of them and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, then signed a Joint Declaration in the Port of Esbjerg (Denmark), within the framework of the Offshore Wind Summit, which includes their common vision on offshore wind and associated infrastructures in the North Sea. The objective of this other Declaration is to install 150 gigawatts of wind power in the territorial waters of these four nations in the North Sea. At the moment, the 2030 offshore targets already set by the four nations total 65 gigawatts.
[Below, on the right, cumulative offshore wind power capacity at the end of 2021, by country, and below, by region. Source: Global Wind Energy Council].
The Dublin Declaration would therefore take up this momentum and expand ambitions and geographies. The current context is significantly different: the war in Ukraine is beginning to become chronic, winter is on Europe's doorstep, the gas crisis seems inevitable and offshore wind - WindEurope explains - is one of the most competitive and scalable indigenous sources of electricity. The problem -warns the employers- is the European wind supply chain. "Companies are facing unexpected challenges, linked to the effects of the war in Ukraine, disruptions in the supply chain caused by Covid19, as well as high energy and shipping prices". Thus, WindEurope points out, the five European turbine manufacturers are currently making losses, "an unsustainable situation that requires changes as soon as possible".
The North Sea Energy Cooperation (NSEC) Summit recognizes the "crucial importance" of strengthening the European offshore wind supply chain. Within the framework of the Summit, the experts gathered in Dublin have reflected on how to ensure that the European offshore wind sector evolves towards "made in Europe". One of the conclusions, referring specifically to the design of auctions, was that they should include non-price criteria. The NSEC ministers have expressed their wish that the European Commission include these criteria (non-price criteria) in its planned Guide of recommendations. There is also a broad consensus, WindEurope explained, that negative bids are not the ideal way to conduct offshore wind auctions.
The NSEC ministers have also declared themselves aware that the ambitious expansion of wind energy in the North Sea faces several bottlenecks, including the availability of infrastructure and the availability of workforce (skilled operators). According to WindEurope, the Old Continent needs to invest at least E6.5 billion in modernizing and adapting its port infrastructure. The European wind industry association believes, in light of all this, that the EU will only be able to realize its offshore wind targets with a sufficiently skilled workforce. There are currently some 77,000 people working in the offshore wind industry, and by 2030 there could be - according to some estimates - as many as 200,000. WindEurope believes that the European Union and member states should encourage young talent to join the offshore wind career and should ensure that sufficient studies and internship programs are in place to train the technical skills and abilities needed for these jobs.
Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope: "It was really good to meet the Energy Ministers in Dublin. And it was also very positive that they put their focus on the wind supply chain. This must more than double in size if the European Union is to achieve its offshore wind targets. This requires crystal-clear visibility from governments: they - the governments - must specify exactly where, when and how they are going to build all these offshore wind farms."
Joint planning and cross-border projects
According to WindEurope, it is crucial that the NSEC countries cooperate in the development of the future North Sea offshore wind power grid, for which they must actively collaborate with the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) in formulating a strategic plan for the development of the Horizon 2050 Offshore Wind Grid. This will include innovative cross-border projects, so-called hybrid offshore wind farms.
To improve the necessary cross-border collaboration on offshore wind, the NSEC countries - WindEurope adds - will develop a common NSEC plan to be integrated into the updates of their respective integrated national energy and climate plans.
Likewise, they must commit to accelerate the administrative procedures affecting offshore wind projects in line with the REPower EU agenda (which is an energy plan in response to the war in Ukraine). Finally, WindEurope also encourages a global North Sea offshore basin approach, rather than a country-by-country approach. [In the image above, Patrick Steffensen (Ørsted). Photographer: Martin Jung. Above, Hornsea 2 offshore wind farm, located about 89 kilometers off the coast of Yorkshire in the North Sea. Photographer: Jonny Betts].
Dublin Declaration North Sea Energy Cooperation