The offshore wind industry has developed rapidly over the last 10 years. The technology has never had such a high output capacity, lower prices or a higher coexistence potential. The European Commission is to present a new strategy on offshore renewable energy which will be published in October as part of the European Green Deal.
The European Green Deal reflects the significance of this progress. It states that “Increasing offshore wind production will be essential, building on regional cooperation between Member States”1. To deliver the objectives of the Green Deal and decarbonise the energy system, Europe needs between 230 and 450 GW of offshore wind by 20502. Today, Europe has 22 GW of wind capacity installed3. To make this growth possible, the EU’s offshore wind strategy needs to address multiple challenges.
Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope, highlights these challenges when he states that the strategy needs to “map out clearly how to mobilise the investments needed”, and adds: “Crucially, it should provide a masterplan (a) to develop the offshore and onshore grid connections and (b) to get the maritime spatial planning right.” 4
When it comes to grid connections, advanced offshore infrastructures are needed to integrate offshore wind power in the most efficient way. A suggested change to optimise the grid development is meshed grids5, 6. Meshed offshore grids refer to integrated offshore infrastructure in which offshore wind energy hubs are connected to several nations. This is an efficient solution to meet energy demands, in contrast to traditional radial connections which link offshore wind to single countries and markets.
There are many uncertainties when it comes to interconnected grids and wind power projects, such as how to share the costs between countries. The strategy needs to push legislative measures for international wind farms and encourage EU member states to focus more on transnational spatial planning. It is vital to consider these aspects well in advance of the coming expansion, as lock-in effects of an inefficient grid design could be challenging or even impossible to correct in the future.
When it comes to offshore wind projects and their permits, the strategy needs to add a long-term perspective that can guide nations now. The new Maritime Spatial Planning Directive requires that member states set out plans for the next six years. This perspective is short and makes it difficult to factor in the goal of 450GW by 2050. Finally, research has found that lack of cooperation and misalignments between national regulatory frameworks are the main obstacles to integrated offshore network investments⁷. Deployment of offshore wind power should be accompanied by purposeful coordination between the countries and stakeholders involved, and the strategy set out by the European Commission needs to support this.
1. European Commission, Communication The European Green Deal, COM/2019/640 final, Brussels, 11.12.2019
3. Wind Europe (2020) Offshore Wind in Europe–key trends and statistics 2019, Brussels.
4. Simon, F. (2020, February 6). Offshore wind boom 'not enough' to reach EU climate goals. Retrieved from https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/offshore-wind-boom-not-enou...
5. Dàmir Belltheus Avdic & Pierre Ståhl. (2019) Baltic InteGrid review: towards a meshed offshore grid in the Baltic Sea
6. Sunila, Kanerva, et al. “A supra-national TSO to enhance offshore wind power development in the Baltic Sea? A legal and regulatory analysis”. Energy policy 128 (2019): 775-782.