Wind turbines in the sea


At today’s Ministerial Meeting of the North Seas Energy Cooperation [i] under the German Presidency, Energy Ministers and the European Commissioner for Energy agreed on the key role of offshore wind energy in reaching Europe’s renewable energy and climate targets up to 2050.

The vast potential of the North Seas could contribute in a significant way to an increased deployment of offshore wind energy. In particular, the accelerated implementation of cross-border offshore wind projects that are interconnected among North Seas countries (joint and hybrid projects) could unleash the potential for an efficient deployment of offshore wind energy. This results from reducing costs and space demand of offshore developments as well as facilitating electricity trade, industrial growth and employment in the region, thereby contributing to the European economic recovery.

In a Joint Statement (PDF, 609 KB), Energy Ministers and the European Commissioner for Energy agree that existing barriers should be tackled for an accelerated deployment of multinational hybrid offshore wind energy projects as well as other relevant projects. The Commission is encouraged to develop an enabling framework at EU level, which consists of EU guidance to Member States on the implementation of cross-border projects, adequate electricity market arrangements, and improved and efficient EU financing.

“Joint and hybrid offshore wind projects are expected to play an essential role in reaching the energy and climate targets up to 2050”, Germany’s Minister Altmaier said at the meeting. The potential European contribution of offshore wind energy by 2050 amounts to more than 10 times of today’s installed capacity of 22 GW. To this end, annual installation rates of currently 3 GW per year will have to scale up considerably in the coming years.

However, barriers exist to the implementation of joint and hybrid projects. These include different rules between the countries for the use of the sea bed, substantial coordination efforts to set up joint and hybrid projects, potentially unbalanced allocation of costs and benefits across the involved Member States, or competing interests regarding the use of scarce offshore areas for infrastructure to channel offshore wind and to trade between countries.

Important aspects that need to be tackled by enhanced coordination are the design and timing of offshore wind tenders and methodologies to assess the distribution of costs and benefits of the joint and hybrid projects. Ministers and the European Commissioner also agreed to improve their coordination regarding offshore grid planning and onshore grid connection of offshore wind farms. Furthermore, they agreed to improve coordination between maritime spatial planning and offshore grid planning to facilitate the joint ambition of offshore wind energy deployment in the region.

“Today’s meeting is the European Green Deal in action”, Commissioner Simson said at the meeting. “Only by stronger cross-border cooperation, such as between the North Seas countries, will we be able to sufficiently scale up renewable energy production and make Europe the first climate neutral continent.”

Guidance was given by Ministers and the European Commissioner to the support groups to continue their work and present progress at the next Ministerial Meeting. In the second half of the year, the work will focus on a further development of concrete proposals for hybrid projects, maritime spatial and offshore grid planning, and a long-term vision for the role of offshore renewable energy until by 2050, including the role of hydrogen.

Continuity in the North Seas Energy Cooperation beyond 2020 is already ensured: “The energy transition and in particular this cooperation has always been a key policy priority for Belgium, and a common theme of the Benelux regional cooperation. That is the reason why I have offered my candidacy to take over the Presidency of the North Seas Energy Cooperation in 2021”, Belgian Minister Marghem stated.

In the same vein, Luxembourg Minister Turmes welcomes Belgium’s candidacy for the Presidency, wishing her success while assuring Belgium of Luxembourg’s assistance in these new functions. Minister Turmes from Luxembourg also applauded the great progress made this year under the German Presidency. “Improved and efficient use of EU funds is essential to facilitate the realisation of joint and hybrid offshore wind projects. In terms of recovery the EU recovery plan provides an opportunity to mobilise and efficiently use EU funding for such projects.”

Ministers look forward to the upcoming initiatives at EU level in the context of the European Green Deal, in particular the planned EU Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy foreseen in autumn 2020. Ministers and the European Commissioner will reconvene at the next Ministerial Meeting of the North Seas Energy Cooperation in December.


[i] The North Seas Energy Cooperation is a regional energy cooperation forum between currently BE, DE, DK, FR, IE, LU, NL, NO, SE to facilitate the integration of large scale offshore wind energy in the European energy markets as well as a more coordinated offshore grid development.