The Belgian offshore wind industry had grown in just a few years’ time to become an important new industrial sector, which in due course will create between 15,000 and 16,000 new jobs. Wind energy at sea also has a positive impact on the country’s gross national product, the international balance of trade and government financing. Last but not least, wind is indispensible if Belgium hopes to meet its climate and renewable energy targets by 2020.
Belgium currently occupies sixth position in the world rankings for total capacity in offshore wind energy and is in fourth place for installed capacity per head of population. This new industry creates employment in every subsidiary aspect related to offshore wind, such as research, development, the construction of maritime foundations and transformer platforms, the installation of wind turbines and their maintenance, etc.
The costs of offshore wind energy are widely known and are often the subject of public debate. However, it must not be forgotten that there are numerous advantages associated with wind energy at sea, not only in terms of ecological benefits, but also benefits in the socio-economic field. These latter benefits do not always get the exposure they deserve. For this reason, the BOP commissioned an independent study bureau (Climact) to investigate the macro-economic impact of the development of the offshore wind industry on the Belgian economy, both now and in the near future (up to 2030). The most important findings: the creation of 15,000 to 16,000 jobs and 1 billion euros of added value per annum, a better balance of foreign trade and a positive effect on state finances. Last but not least, it will also contribute to significantly reduced CO2 emissions.
According to this study, the development of the offshore wind industry in Belgium and the rest of Europe will create between 15,000 and 16,000 permanent jobs in the Belgian economy. The macro-economic analysis further points to a possible positive impact on added value of roughly one billion euros each year. The study likewise reveals that subsidy costs will be more than adequately compensated by additional tax revenue and lower social security expenditure, as a direct result of job creation in the sector. For the projects that are already operational and those still in development, it is estimated that there will be a net discounted impact on state financing of one billion euros from 2010 to 2020.
The more offshore wind energy we have, the lower the market price for electricity will become. Wind energy is already forcing prices down in the current electricity market. Methods of electricity production with lower operational costs, including wind energy, exert downwards pressure on the wholesale price of energy creation (the so-called merit order effect). This cost-reducing impact can vary between 3 and 23 euros/MWh in Belgium.
The potential impact on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change are no less impressive. As far as greenhouse gases are concerned, the production of 4 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030 would result in a reduction of some six million tons of CO2 each year, in comparison with classic gas power stations. This is equivalent to 5% of the total Belgian emissions in 2015 (118 million tons of CO2) or 50% of the emissions caused by electricity generation (12 million tons of CO2).
The conclusion of the study is therefore as follows:
Offshore wind energy in Belgium has a positive impact on all socio-economic indicators:
- Government financing: an additional 1 billion euros from 2010 to 2020.
- Export: further development of the domestic market is essential to allow the industry to maintain the leading position it needs, if it wishes to take part in projects outside Belgium.
- Participation of the Belgian offshore wind industry in national and international projects will lead to additional economic activities in Belgium with a high added value, resulting in the creation of approximately 15,000 to 16,000 new jobs.
- The greater the proportion of offshore wind energy in the electricity mix, the lower the prices for electricity on the market will become.
- Finally, offshore wind energy is carbon-free and therefore climate neutral, so that it contributes towards the reduction of costs associated with climate change.