Wind energy in the North Sea to accelerate energy transition and increase energy independence
The Belgian Offshore Platform invites the Prime Minister and the ministers of North Sea and Energy for an offshore wind working visit.
Ostend – 13 may 2022
With almost 3,500 km² of Belgian marine areas (0.6% of the North Sea), our country has a free, safe and climate-friendly source of energy to accelerate the energy transition and become more energy independent. Since 2021, the wind farms in the Belgian North Sea have been producing approximately one-tenth of Belgium’s annual electricity demand. More than 80% of this large offshore power plant is in Belgian hands. Belgian companies active in the offshore wind sector play an important role in the development of offshore wind in their own country, but they also already export their know-how in Europe and worldwide.
The billions invested in these offshore wind farms not only generate climate-friendly and waste-free energy, but also create benefits for the Belgian economy. Established maritime companies have been able to develop their expertise in their home market thanks to the stimulating federal policy, but innovative SMEs have also been able to develop in this new clean tech industry. This has created a flourishing Belgian offshore wind industry that is now active worldwide.
Furthermore, Belgian companies have provided 50% or more of the capital for the wind farms. Seven of the eight wind farms are fully controlled by Belgian companies. It is therefore fully local energy. Not only are the investors predominantly Belgian, many suppliers are also anchored in the Belgian industrial landscape. During the construction and maintenance of the wind farms, the operators can count on the know-how of specialized Belgian companies. This is also reflected in the figures: offshore wind energy currently accounts for 14 000 jobs; by 2030, the employment potential is estimated at 24 000 jobs.
The wind farms in the Belgian North Sea have a good cooperation with local knowledge institutions, but also with environmental and nature organisations. For example, BOP signed a declaration of intent with four NGOs (Bond Beter Leefmilieu, Greenpeace, Natuurpunt and WWF) that considers that wind energy and nature protection can go hand in hand. The joint declaration points out the importance of nature inclusive design of wind farms and investments in scientific research and innovation, with maximum opportunities for nature conservation.
Towards 8 GW offshore energy
Belgian companies active in offshore wind are ready to put the experience they have gained to good use in the construction of new wind farms in the Princess Elisabeth area, on the western side of the Belgian North Sea. Further investments in the home market remain essential to strengthen the competitive advantage of this promising climate-friendly industry.
“The government will soon tender the offshore wind zones in the Princess Elisabeth area”, says Annemie VERMEYLEN, Secretary-General BOP. “This new major investment is a unique opportunity to draw Belgian companies into the ‘Green Deal’ industrial revolution of the coming decades. Therefore, it is crucial that a balanced and fair tender system not only ensures stable costs and potential benefits for the consumer, but also generates maximum macro-economic return on these investments for Belgium. The tender system must continue to offer equal opportunities to Belgian investors and companies so that social support for the energy transition is further strengthened.”
BOP therefore joins the call of Agoria and the social partners that public investments should go more to Belgian companies and employees. The social partners advocate that the strategic use of public procurement should be an integral part of our country’s industrial and economic policy.
The tender procedure for the first zone is expected to start at the end of 2023. Tendering for the second and third phases will open in the second quarter of 2024. The first delivery is then planned for 2028. Construction and delivery of the last two phases is expected in 2029.
Alexander DE CROO, Prime Minister: “More local energy means not only greener but also cheaper energy. That is what the federal government is aiming for, more than ever. In the next few years, we will triple the energy from wind turbines at sea. Our North Sea is small, but our ambition is great.”
Vincent VAN QUICKENBORNE, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the North Sea: “The North Sea is becoming the powerhouse of our energy independence. We are already number 6 worldwide in terms of the number of wind turbines. We are going to triple that capacity by 2030. That is why we are providing more powerful wind turbines and why we are looking for a new zone for wind turbines. Every household in Belgium will thus be supplied with green energy from our North Sea. But it does not stop there. Between the wind turbines, we want to be the first country in the world to install floating solar panels at sea. We will also be investing heavily in this in the coming years. The Belgian North Sea gives our country the wind in its sails to become independent from Russian gas.”
Energy Minister VAN DER STRAETEN: “Energy is being used as a weapon today and our best defense is Belgian wind turbines in the North Sea. We can increasingly replace Russian oil and gas with Belgian wind and solar energy and green hydrogen. Thanks to the tripling of wind at sea, we will provide North Sea electricity for every family, achieving more energy independence at lower prices. Our Belgian North Sea will become our country’s largest renewable energy plant.”