The North Sea can make a strong argument as the birthplace of the global energy transition – a region of huge but waning oil & gas reserves that’s now being reinvented as a hotbed of offshore wind and soon, green hydrogen.
Siemens Gamesa CEO Andreas Nauen was the latest leading industry figure to hail the North Sea’s potential when he said it was ideally placed to kick-start a globally important link-up between offshore generation and vast H2 production.
The scale of what is underway was recognised in a landmark report from the UK’s Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC), which predicted that the UK sector – still mainly North Sea focused – is set for a £60bn ($82bn) influx of new capital in the next five years, a period that will see jobs supported by the industry leap to almost 70,000 from the current 26,000.
Those ‘green jobs’ are crucial to the UK’s big bet on offshore wind as part of its industrial strategy – neatly illustrated this week when RWE took a final investment decision on the North Sea’s latest mega-project, the £3bn, 1.4GW Sofia, which will bring a new huge boost to the regional economy.
The UK’s longer-term offshore wind prospects got another shot in the arm with news that the delayed Scotwind leasing round off Scotland was declared ‘back on track’, and that seabed landlord The Crown Estate is looking to start commercial-scale floating wind leasing off southwest England and Wales.
And the end results of the massive transformation were plain to see when the government confirmed that renewables led by wind power outgunned power from fossil fuels for the first time ever in 2020.
But as the renewable revolution gathers pace in the North Sea and elsewhere, what about the tens of thousands working fossil-based industries? That was the focus of a much-heralded deal between the UK government and its oil & gas sector that aims to ease their transition to new lower-carbon areas such as carbon capture and storage and hydrogen, but which was condemned by green campaigners for failing to rule out new fossil licensing.
Whose responsibility is it to make the energy transition a reality? The glib answer is ‘everyone’s’ but as we all know, some have more power to shape change than others – and many of them are in international finance.
Recharge reported this week on research that points the finger at banks continuing to pump trillions of dollars into underwriting the global fossil fuel industry since the Paris Agreement in 2015, revealing an “alarming disconnect” between the urgency of the climate emergency and a finance industry that too often wants business as usual.
On the flip side to that, we also highlighted a $540m green bond set up by HSBC and the International Finance Corporation (IFC)that is aiming at boosting access to climate finance in developing economies.
Progress may be too slow, but we all must hope that the momentum is draining from the no-change brigade. As Recharge Editor-in-Chief Darius Snieckus pointed out in an opinion article, the scale of the spend required – $131 trillion according to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (Irena) – is so vast that the energy transition has to be viewed as a moral mission, as much as one of policy or finance, if it is to succeed.
The end of another week in which Recharge subscribers heard from the biggest names in the energy transition.
Enel X CEO Francesco Venturini wrote exclusively on how the company is fulfilling its remit to “change the rules of the game” and reshape the relationship between power generation and consumption.
José Luis Blanco, chief executive of Nordex, told us how anti-icing technology and the move to larger turbines is helping the OEM’s cause.
And in a third exclusive, this time from the increasingly crucial storage sector, the head of battery systems at fast-growing VW-backed start-up Northvolt explained why the company won’t sacrifice its green credentials.