Brussels 1 June 2021 – In recent years, there has been an acceleration in the implementation of the UN Paris Climate Agreement (2015) in Europe but also worldwide. The European Green Deal (2019), the EU Offshore Strategy (2020), the EU Climate Law (2021), the IEA‘s call (May 2021) for all governments to significantly strengthen climate targets and recently, the Shell judgment (26 May 2021) in the Netherlands, point in the direction of more and faster efforts to keep global warming below acceptable levels. Energy is responsible for the lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. It is therefore logical that solutions are sought in this field to reverse the dangerous trend. Offshore wind energy is increasingly seen worldwide as an important cornerstone of a net zero carbon economy.
The starting point of the European Green Deal is that climate change and environmental degradation constitute an existential threat to Europe and the world. To counteract them, Europe needs a new growth strategy that turns the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy that reduces net greenhouse-gas emissions to zero by 2050 and delivers economic growth without resource depletion.
On 5 May 2021, a political agreement was reached to enshrine in legislation that the EU must become climate-neutral by 2050 and net emissions of greenhouse gases must be at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2030.
On 19 November 2020, the European Commission launched its renewable offshore energy strategy, proposing to increase European offshore wind capacity from its current level of 12 GW to at least 60 GW by 2030 and to 300 GW by 2050.
Green Deal for Belgium?
In order to contribute to the goal of climate neutrality by 2050, the Belgian Offshore Platform has calculated the benefits of increasing offshore wind energy in the Belgian maritime areas. A specialised research agency, Climact, was commissioned to calculate both the macro-economic return and the reduction of greenhouse gases of a 6 GW offshore wind scenario compared to the 4.4 GW offshore wind scenario as decided by the federal government in 2018.
The results of this study show that additional offshore wind developments in Belgium could create 10,000 new jobs and the sector could contribute up to EUR 1.5 billion to Belgium’s gross domestic product. Moreover, with 6 GW offshore wind, up to 6.1 million extra tonnes of CO2 can be avoided each year compared to 4.4 GW offshore wind. This corresponds to the annual carbon footprint of 380,000 inhabitants of Belgium.
6 GW offshore wind in Belgium: more economic growth, good for the climate
“With 6 GW of offshore wind energy in the Belgian North Sea, we create more economic growth and also reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” says François Van Leeuw, president of the Belgian Offshore Platform and co-CEO of Parkwind.
The members of the BOP therefore call on the policymakers to seriously examine this increased offshore wind target.
Offshore wind energy in the Belgian North Sea amounts today to an installed capacity of 2,262 MW, which produces an average 8 TWh annually, or around 10% of total electricity demand. With a production capacity of 6 GW, a total of 23 TWh could be produced annually. This is equivalent to about 27% of the Belgian electricity consumption in 2019 (85 TWh).
Due to the strong offshore wind industry in Belgium, which is ranked in the top 5 worldwide, the expertise of Belgian offshore wind companies is already being deployed worldwide. However, continued investment in the domestic market remains essential to consolidate and further strengthen the competitive advantage of this climate-friendly industry.