An offshore strategy for Europe

The unveiling of the much hyped Copenhagen Strategy on Offshore Wind Power Deployment failed to ignite the enthusiasm of delegates at the Copenhagen Offshore Wind conference in late October. But as just one step in the tedious EU political process, the document was never intended to set the offshore industry alight, explains Christian Kjær of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). Nonetheless, the strategy is important, stresses Kjær, not least because of the people behind it.

More than 80 government policy makers from member states spent two full days in Copenhagen finishing the strategy with the assistance of European wind industry members and other industry lobby groups, including transmission system operators.

"The strength of this is that it did get a lot of input from industry and NGOs [non-governmental organisations]. All the worries of offshore project development were communicated through this group of people at the meeting -- and also in the preliminary talks. It's not just a lot of energy authorities sitting down and guessing what people want. They do have information about concrete problems. Of course, a lot of different parties have to agree on the final document, so things tend to get watered down, but that's the reality of any initiative at the European level," says Kjær.

The work, however, was met with anything but thanks in the packed auditorium on the last day of Copenhagen Offshore Wind. On the platform, four senior policy officials from the UK, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, along with EWEA's Corin Millais, were given a tough time.

"This paper doesn't address the real problems," declared consultant Hans Bjerregaard. "There's a danger everything will fall apart in Germany. The UK has lots of problems with transmission. There are no further plans in Denmark beyond the two new tenders. In Sweden nothing is happening. The Netherlands has a great mess in planning. All of this is a matter of policy. Something needs to be done. There's a serious need for leadership." Loud applause filled the room.

Millais stopped the question and answer session immediately. "Engineers are not the only ones who build wind farms," he said, clearly frustrated. "Policy makers also build wind farms. If you read the document, you'll see it addresses these problems."

Moving forward

The Copenhagen Strategy continues a process started in the Netherlands last year, the Egmond Policy Declaration (Windpower Monthly, November 2004). It will be continued again in Germany next year. "The strength of what started in Egmond is that these are the people formulating the conditions for offshore wind farms in Europe," Kjær says. "These energy authorities are coming together to figure out how to co-ordinate on a European level, get common understandings of the barriers and move this forward." Kjær adds that a more European approach is needed for offshore than onshore wind due to cross-border issues.

Recommendations in the Copenhagen Offshore Strategy cover three main topics: market development, grid access, infrastructure and system integration, and environment. One of the most important overall messages, says Kjær, is a call for the EU's Council of Ministers to prepare a specific action plan for the development of offshore wind farms in Europe -- a first for offshore wind at this political level.

The paper also calls for an overall change in the operation strategies of transmission systems in the context of liberalised markets. This includes transmission guarantees for offshore wind, implementation of market mechanisms to allow power trades close to real time (shorter "gate closures") to allow fairer competitive conditions for wind power, and grid codes that better reflect the technical needs of wind and transmission system operators.

"I think I'm most surprised by the section on grid access and infrastructure, because the European transmission system operators were part of the process," Kjær says. "The short gate closure issue has not been addressed in any official document I've ever seen -- and it puts a very technical issue in a political document."

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