European Commission wants to generate significantly more energy at sea

October 1, 2020 by No Comments

In order to achieve the goal of a CO2-neutral Europe by 2050, considerably more energy will have to be generated at sea in the coming decades. The number of offshore wind farms in particular must be increased: from the current 12 gigawatts, the capacity must grow to 300 gigawatts in thirty years’ time, so 25 times as much. In ten years’ time, the capacity should have increased fivefold.

On Thursday, the European Commission presented these sustainable ambitions as an important part of the European Green Deal. Rapidly increasing the share of renewable energy is crucial for the climate plans.

At present, Europe is already at the forefront of offshore energy generation, with 80 percent of global capacity. “This is a real European success story,” said Frans Timmermans on Thursday, who oversees the climate plan as Vice-President of the European Commission. “In the coming years, it will be an even greater opportunity for our clean energy, highly skilled jobs, competitiveness and sustainable growth.”

Floating solar panels

To achieve the targets, new offshore wind farms will have to be built all over Europe, but the Commission is also aiming for floating solar panels and energy from waves and tides. The current plans of member states for ‘offshore energy’, including that of the Netherlands, are not yet sufficient for this: they only add up to 90 gigawatts in 2050. “The pace must increase and there are obstacles to overcome,” says Timmermans. “But we aim high because there is urgency and potential.”

The strategy is one of many presented by the Commission last year as part of the Green Deal, alongside renovation and hydrogen plans, among others. Although the plans are not very detailed, they must clearly indicate the direction the EU is heading. By expressing priorities and ambitions, the Commission hopes that plans will be made and money will be released. Adjusting European regulations for, for example, tenders and state aid can also play a role in this.

Ultimately, it remains the Member States themselves who plan energy projects. But by raising the bar, the Commission hopes that the European offshore energy market will be given a significant push in the right direction. The certainty that Europe will be fully committed to the projects in the coming decades should make it attractive for developers and investors.

European Energy Islands

Moreover, in the future there should also be projects where different Member States work together, for example on energy islands. At the moment, this rarely happens, partly because such projects are sandwiched between several electricity markets where different rules apply. This is already easier at the moment, says the Commission now, in an explanation of the existing rules.

An auction of the electricity, via a so-called ‘offshore bidding zone’, is already possible within the applicable market rules. Such a procedure then determines a single price for electricity that is connected to different networks, after which it automatically flows to the place where it is needed at that moment.

However, Brussels acknowledges: there are still obstacles in cooperation projects of different Member States. New European rules for grid connection requirements should remove these in the future.

The Commission emphasizes that the ambitious sustainable plans do not hinder fisheries, nor do they endanger the biodiversity of the seas and oceans.

Ultimately, according to Brussels, only 3 percent of the European maritime area would need to be used – while the Commission wants to increase the share of protected marine area from 11 to 30 percent. But, she underlines: here too, joint planning is crucial, to prevent certain areas from being disproportionately burdened. The Commission also intends to continue examining the effects of energy production on the maritime environment on a regular basis.

The Commission estimates the total investment costs for the plans at 800 billion until 2050, of which two-thirds for the network infrastructure and the rest for the actual construction of the parks where the electricity is generated. By providing certainty about the future of energy at sea, the Commission estimates that the majority of investment comes from private energy companies. Support for the most innovative plans can also come from various European funds, including the sizeable corona recovery fund that member states agreed this summer.