Today the EU presented its Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy. The detailed plan offers a robust framework for the development of offshore wind in the coming decades off Europe. It will support the region’s economic recovery and help reach its Green Deal targets by making wind-at-sea the largest source of electricity in the bloc.
Offshore wind is set to become Europe’s number one source of electricity by around 2040. Today it meets around 3% of demand. But this figure will increase significantly in the next decades. The EU-27 now has 12GW of offshore capacity – and the whole of the region 23GW. With the Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy, this would expand to 60GW in 2030 and 300GW by 2050. So an extraordinary 25-fold growth.
Good job, European Commission! Not only for presenting these targets but also for clearly pinpointing where the capital needs to be spent to deliver these volumes, namely investments in grids, ports and the European offshore wind supply chain.
Europe’s offshore wind supply chain is currently producing 3GW in turbines annually. Eventually we will increase production to 18GW a year. What an opportunity for Europe’s economy. Offshore wind will create thousands of green jobs and spur the economic recovery all around Europe. We already have 77.000 people working in the sector today. If national governments deliver on their national energy and climate plans this will almost triple to 200,000 jobs by the end of the decade.
That’s not only great news for coastal regions. Through interconnected European supply chains, landlocked countries will also benefit. Offshore wind pays off big time. Each new offshore wind turbine generates €15m ($18m) of economic activity in Europe. And we will build them en masse.
For this ambitious EU strategy for offshore wind to work, long-term infrastructure investments have to be taken as soon as possible
Our ports need to be prepared. As the central points for the transport and storage of big turbine components, they require investment. We estimate €6.5bn through to 2030. Europe also needs to spend large sums on the expansion of grid capacity and connections – both onshore and offshore.
These long-term infrastructure investments have to be taken as soon as possible. They are essential conditions for the scale-up of offshore operations and the transport of large volumes of green electricity from Europe’s seas to its mainland. Member states should consider this when designing their recovery and resilience plans.
Offshore wind technology continues to develop. OEMs are rolling out ever larger and more efficient turbine models, now as big as 15MW. Floating wind is about to take off big time – today’s 60MW in Europe will be 300MW in 2022 and 7GW by 2030. It could be up to a third of Europe’s total offshore capacity by 2050.
Larger floating wind projects and the rapid expansion of capacity will help bring down costs. And floating will allows countries on the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea to exploit their wind power potential to the full. Projects connected to one or more countries will become common. The EU Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy sets out the right enabling framework for those hybrid projects.
The strategy acknowledges that investments in offshore wind require a reliable revenue stabilisation mechanism. Offshore wind is cheap and scaleable but projects require large upfront investments. EU governments should introduce Contracts for Difference, such as we have seen used in the UK. It’s the best model: it stabilises revenues and reduces costs for governments as wind farms ‘pay back’ when electricity prices are high.
The EU has taken a major stride forward toward carbon neutrality with its Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy: ambitious targets for offshore wind yes, but of commensurate importance, clear guidance on where the capital must be spent – grids, ports and the supply chain – to deliver these energy transition-accelerating volumes.
· Giles Dickson is CEO of European wind industry advocacy body WindEurope, which is holding its annual conference, WindTV, on 1-4 December alongside the WindEnergy Hamburg exhibition