Offshore wind construction rules 'need major shift' to hit 300GW target

The EU’s wind industry has warmly welcomed the EU Commission’s plans for 300GW of offshore wind by 2050, but it warns that money alone won’t solve the ‘mammoth task ahead’

The EU Commission has plans for a 25-fold increase in EU offshore wind energy. (pic: Pxfuel)

Today, the commission formally announced its plans for a 25-fold increase in EU offshore wind energy by 2050. To get there, its new EU Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy states that the bloc is anticipating €789 billion of investment.

Currently, UK waters host almost half of Europe’s 23GW of offshore wind capacity. However, the Commission’s plan will see EU offshore wind capacity (excluding the UK) grow from 12GW today, to 60GW by 2030 and 300GW by 2050. The EU’s 3GW of annual incremental offshore wind capacity will need to reach 7GW after 2030 –  something the industry concedes will be challenging.

The managing director of The Federal Association of Wind Farm Operators Offshore eV (BWO), Stefan Thimm, described the required rollout as a “mammoth task”. In a statement, he said: “But the challenge cannot be met with money alone. Europe is a patchwork of national special rules that have so far made the planning of transnational projects almost impossible.”

For Thimm, the division of cross-border projects’ costs and benefits needs to be much better addressed. He also believes that much work is required to better link marine spatial planning with a new focus on the co-use of available sea areas, as planning is far too convoluted at present. To do this, strengthening regional cooperation will be essential as pilot projects are brought forward alongside a “harmonization of the framework conditions for the financing of offshore wind projects”. 

The EU’s current analysis of its energy plan shows that offshore wind energy could become Europe’s most important power source as early as 2040. The International Energy Agency’s world outlook energy analyst on power sector modelling, Brent Wanner, described the EU’s wind goals as “essential” if the EU is to meet its net zero goals. 

Andreas Wagner, managing director of the Offshore Wind Energy Foundation in Germany also welcomed the news as an “important pillar of the green recovery”. He said: “What is needed now is a quick determination of which areas are suitable for cross-border projects, in order to clarify the investment framework based on this and to get the first cross-border pilot projects off the ground."

Giles Dickson, WindEurope’s chief executive, described the EU’s strategy as “spot on”. In a statement, he said: “[I]t identifies all the right policies that will drive those investments: industrial policy; state aid rules; and the mechanisms to ensure predictable revenues for offshore wind farm developers at least cost to society.”

The EU’s new strategy also sets out a blueprint to expand floating offshore wind in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea. It wants to see 300MW of floating wind deployed by 2022 and 7GW by 2030. 

On floating wind, Dickson said: “It is important to invest in new technologies and innovation. Floating offshore will be up to a third of all offshore capacity by 2050. Now is the time to invest in large-scale demonstration projects to reduce costs. But continued research and innovation investments in bottom-fixed technology will also pay off.”

He added: “The learning curve is far from over yet.”