9 EU leaders commit to work together to transform wind resources in the North Seas to safe and climate proof energy
Ostend, 24 April 2023
“How to turn bad weather into net zero energy.”
Nine Heads of State & Government and the President of the EU Commission meet today in Ostend to agree new commitments on the build-out of offshore wind in the North Seas. The intergovernmental North Seas cooperation started as soon as 2009 and is taken to a next level since last year’s Esbjerg Declaration Summit.
Today, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom will sign the Ostend Declaration.
More than 90 companies, representing the whole value chain of offshore wind and renewable hydrogen in Europe, outline in an Industry Declaration what the nine Governments need to do now to accelerate the realisation of the offshore renewable energy potential of the North Sea basin.
The Heads of State & Government of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK meet today in Ostend to agree new commitments on offshore renewable energy in the North Seas. They are joined by the President of the European Commission, their respective national Energy Ministers and the EU Energy Commissioner – and by over 100 CEOs from across the offshore wind value chain. It’s by far the biggest ever political Summit on energy in the North Seas. The objective is clear: to use the renewable resources of the North Seas for the net zero (emissions) economy by 2050.
This means more offshore wind electricity by increasing national targets for offshore wind energy. It also means developing the offshore renewable infrastructure of the North Seas for the development, the transport and storage of the North Seas renewable energy: sea ports, offshore and onshore grid buildout, interconnections, hydrogen pipelines, storage etc.
Industry Declaration calls for investments in European value chain
In an Industry Declaration more than 90 companies, representing the whole value chain of offshore wind and renewable hydrogen in Europe, welcome that the nine Governments want to reinforce their offshore wind ambitions at today’s North Sea Summit. The Industry Declaration outlines the urgent need to strengthen Europe’s wind energy manufacturing capacities. The signatories stress that an expansion of offshore wind in the North Seas in line with Europe’s Green Deal ambitions, must be made in Europe.
Governments bordering the North Seas understand that to make this a reality, major new investments are needed in wind energy manufacturing capacity and supporting infrastructure. In the EU, the recently proposed Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA) is an important first step. In the UK, Powering Up Britain plans to deliver energy security, investments and net-zero emissions.
Today Europe can manufacture 7 GW of offshore wind turbines a year. To meet the expansion path outlined in the Ostend Declaration Europe needs to manufacture 20 GW a year by the second half of this decade. Bottlenecks in the manufacturing of foundations, cables, substations and in the availability of installation, service and other offshore wind vessels are looming today already. Similarly, if the UK is to meet its 50 GW target for 2030, significant acceleration is needed in grid development and supply chain investment.
The expansion of offshore wind farms must be underpinned by investments in grids and ports. Europe needs to double its annual grid investments and channel €9bn into the modernisation and expansion of its port infrastructure between now and 2030.
The Industry Declaration also touches upon financing mechanisms, auction design, industrial policy and electricity market design. All of these are crucial to unlock the investments needed to deliver Europe’s offshore wind ambitions. In 2022 not a single offshore wind farm reached final investment decision. Uncoordinated market interventions, price caps and national clawback measures deterred investments. Governments must restore investor confidence and allow for a combination of Contracts-for-Difference, Power Purchase Agreements and merchant projects in their market design.
But investments alone don’t manufacture blades, navigate vessels or operate wind farms. Above all, national Governments must support the build-up of the necessary skills base. The offshore wind workforce in Europe needs to grow from 80,000 today to 250,000 by 2030, creating an urgent need for training and reskilling programmes.
The Belgian Offshore Platform (BOP), representing the offshore wind energy sector in Belgium, participates as a key industrial partner of the North Sea Summit in Ostend, alongside with other Belgian industry partners.
“Today, Belgium ranks third (after Denmark and the UK) in terms of installed offshore wind capacity per inhabitant. The Belgian offshore wind industry is an early mover. The first wind farm started producing electricity in 2009. Today, between 8 and 10 % of the total Belgian electricity demand is produced in the Belgian part of the North Sea. After some years of standstill, the Belgian offshore wind industry welcomes the decision of the federal government on the blueprint for the next generation offshore wind farms in Belgium. It will contribute to more climate proof energy security for citizens and businesses.” says Annemie Vermeylen, secretary-general of BOP.