North Seas conference in The Hague: from national goals to concrete joint action for offshore wind energy
Today, the North Seas countries make a leap forward in the Hague to progress the offshore wind energy agenda. A shared Action Agenda builds towards an integrated energy system in 2050, a sustainable and resilient supply chain in Europe, and a better balance between energy and nature in the North Seas. Earlier this year, the Northern Seas countries and the European Commission declared shared ambitions for wind energy in the North Seas. The North Seas will be the largest source of sustainable energy in Europe. For these shared ambitions international cooperation is essential, which is why the North Seas countries convene a second time this year.
Participants of this yearly ministerial meeting are: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the European Commission. The United Kingdom attended as a guest. During the past year, the Netherlands, alongside the European Commission, was chairman of the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC).
As co-chair, The Netherlands was keen to translate national ambitions to European actions. The agreements which are recorded in the Action Agenda bring the European Wind Power Package (recently presented by the European Commission) to the next phase. At the conference in the Hague, Minister Jetten handed the Action Agenda to the new NSEC chairman Denmark.
As part of this ambition, a collective NSEC tender planning is launched. The tender planning translates NSEC countries’ broad ambitions into tangible progress, auctioning around 15 GW every year, awarding almost 100 GW between this year and 2030. This will increase the predictability in the wind power sector and allow for better collaboration. For example, it will facilitate of better cooperation and coordination on cables, pipes, harbour infrastructure and access to resources. This helps the European wind power sector with their mid- and long-term (financial) planning. Moreover, the countries will better coordinate their infrastructure planning at sea. In January 2024 the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), will publish a shared plan for infrastructure in the North Sea, with input from NSEC countries. This is an important step on the road to a European integrated energy system in 2050. This plan takes into account the need for a fair balance with other sectors and users in the North Sea, such as the fishing- and transport industry.
Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simon: “Europe’s energy mix is becoming cleaner and greener, and offshore renewables will have an indispensable part in the future energy mix. The North Sea is leading the way in their deployment, and has the potential to become Europe’s “Green Power Plant”. Our discussions today showed the joint determination and commitment to continue the work to deliver on our offshore ambitions, and to take the work forward to boost the competitiveness of this vital sector. I want to thank the Netherlands for hosting this year’s meeting in the Hague, and for the impressive work brought forward under the NSEC co-presidency.”
Minister for Climate and Energy Rob Jetten: “In recent years, North Sea countries shared ambitious plans for sustainable offshore wind energy development. Now, it is time to bring these ambitions into action. We all share the responsibility to develop the North Sea offshore energy plans in a responsible manner, in coordination with other North Sea-users and minimizing ecological impact. Close collaboration is the only way to successfully reach our energy ambitions. Today we start with the joint actions to take the sector to the next phase.”
The development of offshore wind energy must take place in balance with other sea users and minimize negative ecological impact. Furthermore, the offshore wind sector increasingly experiences challenges such as high inflation and increased resource prices, limited availability of labour, and complex licensing systems. For a healthy offshore energy sector and an energy-independent Europe, closer cooperation amongst Member States and the industry is required.
This is echoed by a new study carried out by Royal HaskoningDHV (commissioned by NSEC), highlighting the critical role harbours take in the development, maintenance, and system integration of offshore wind energy. The study indicates that without additional common action, the current and planned capacity of harbours surrounding the North Seas is insufficient to reach the targets of 2030. It shows the bottlenecks for harbour development and makes several concrete recommendations. One of these recommendations is working on a shared European tender planning, as foreseen under the European Wind Power Action Plan.