‘North Seas’ countries eye 260GW offshore wind by 2050

Nine ‘North Seas’ countries have agreed to work together to build at least 260GW of offshore wind by 2050 – more than 85% of the EU’s bloc 300GW goal for mid-century – but acknowledged that supply chain constraints could jeopardise their ambition.

Ørsted's 209MW Horns Rev 2 offshore wind farm in the Danish North Sea
Ørsted's 209MW Horns Rev 2 offshore wind farm in the Danish North Sea

Ministers from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden met with the European Commission in Dublin, Ireland to set the new targets.

They also set intermediate targets of 76GW by 2030 and 193GW by 2040. It is the first time the ‘North Seas’ countries have set aggregate targets for offshore wind.

The ministers will look at facilitating cross-border wind farms and interconnection grid projects, and how best to accelerate project permitting and coordinate maritime spatial planning.

However, they believe supply chain bottlenecks – including disruptions, financial stress of major turbine makers, and the ongoing war in Ukraine – could undermine the countries’ ability to meet the targets. The ministers vowed to work with industry to overcome these challenges, as wind power manufacturers face ongoing inflation for shipping and energy.

The declaration signed in Dublin follows a similar pact agreed by Baltic Sea states, which are targeting a near-sevenfold increase in offshore wind capacity by 2030.

After the signing of the 'North Seas' agreement, EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson: “Increasing renewable energy will not only help to improve the sustainability of our energy sector, it will improve our security of supply and the affordability of energy – two challenges that we are facing in the EU at the moment.”

Under the declaration, Belgium will aim for 8GW by 2050, Denmark for 35GW, France for 40GW, Germany for 70GW, Ireland for 37GW, the Netherlands for 40-70GW and Norway for 30GW. Meanwhile, Sweden is looking to develop offshore wind, but currently has no specific target. The 260GW aggregate target and respective national targets appear to include offshore wind build-out beyond the North Sea itself.

Land-locked Luxembourg aims to contribute to boosting offshore wind through purchasing power from projects, joint support schemes or the EU’s renewable energy financing mechanism.

The nine countries form the European Commission’s North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC), which was formed in 2016 to work together to facilitate cost-effective deployment of offshore renewables and promote interconnection between countries.

With the new pact, they pledged to work together to facilitate cross-border wind farms and interconnection grid projects. In the declaration, they stated they would consider market arrangements for fairly distributing costs and efficiently using grid and market resources.

However, the nine countries noted that they will need to accelerate permitting for wind farms and grid projects in order to meet their targets. They vowed to share best practices for permitting and protecting the marine ecosystem, and economic wellbeing of local communities.

The states will also launch one support group to explore options for better integration of spatial planning, and another to work towards removing barriers to commercial power purchase agreements, and explore tender design, including solutions for including power-to-x.

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