European Offshore Wind Energy Goals are Achievable: Report

The European Commission’s big goals for offshore wind, between 230 and 450 GW by 2050 are achievable provided right investments and spatial planning

European Offshore Wind

A new report has predicted that the European Union (EU) Commission’s big goals for offshore wind – between 230 and 450 GW by 2050 – are achievable provided the right investments in electricity grids and Governments take the right approach to maritime spatial planning.

The details were published in the new WindEurope report, “ Our Energy, Our Future”, which was released at the Offshore 2019 in Copenhagen. The report is a remit from the Energy Ministers of the 10 ‘North Seas’ countries who coordinate their work on offshore wind with each other and the Commission.

The report examines where 450 GW of offshore wind could be deployed most cost-effectively around Europe, bearing in mind there is only 20 GW at present. 450 GW of offshore wind is part of a European Commission scenario to deliver climate neutrality by 2050.

The report concludes that 212 GW should be deployed in the North Sea, 85 GW in the Atlantic (including the Irish Sea), 83 GW in the Baltic, and 70 GW in the Mediterranean and other Southern European waters. This reflects the relative wind resources, proximity to energy demand and the location of the supply chain. The report also breaks down how would each country would deploy in an optimal scenario. The 380 GW that would be deployed in Northern European waters would require less than 3 percent of the total space there.

Furthermore, the report considers how much it would cost to build these large volumes of offshore wind. It shows how maritime spatial planning is key to minimise costs. As at least 60 percent of the North Seas, it is not possible to build offshore wind farms currently.

These “exclusion zones” exist either for environmental reasons or because space is set aside for fishing, shipping and military activity. They mean we can only build less than a quarter of the required volumes at very low cost – below EUR 50/MWh. But with a different approach to maritime spatial planning, with climate change at its heart, the union could build much more at these prices – and benefit fully from the spectacular cost reductions achieved in recent years. Multiple-use, e.g. allowing certain types of fishing in offshore wind farms, would really help.

The report then goes on to state that building 450 GW offshore wind by 2050 would require Europe to install over 20 GW a year by 2030 compared to 3 GW today. And that the industry is gearing up for this, but it’s crucial that Governments provide visibility on volumes and revenue schemes to give long-term confidence for the necessary investments.

Governments should also anticipate this significant growth in offshore wind in their planning for both offshore and onshore grid connections. Not least since there is a 10-year lead time on planning and building the grids needed for offshore wind. Offshore grid investments will need to rise from less than EUR 2 billion in 2020 to up EUR 8 billion a year by 2030.

Capital expenditure on offshore wind including grids will need to rise from around EUR 6 billion a year in 2020 to EUR 23 billion by 2030 and thereafter up to EUR 45 billion.

WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said that the EU says Europe needs at least 10 times as much offshore wind as we have today meet the 2050 goal of decarbonising energy. The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes offshore wind could become the no. 1 source of power generation in Europe in the early 2040s. The report shows that it is do-able and affordable.

“But three things need to happen: (1) the offshore wind supply chain keeps growing; (2) we build the grid connections; and (3) we get the maritime spatial planning right. The wind industry is ready to expand the supply chain provided Governments give long-term visibility on volumes and likely revenues. The grid investments are also manageable provided Governments coordinate them.”

Ayush Verma

Ayush Verma

Ayush is a staff writer at saurenergy.com and writes on renewable energy with a special focus on solar and wind. Prior to this, as an engineering graduate trying to find his niche in the energy journalism segment, he worked as a correspondent for iamrenew.com.

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