Pushing offshore wind up the agenda

Offshore wind looks set to move up Europe's political agenda after a call by ministers and renewables industry representatives for more action at EU level. The participants at a policy workshop on offshore wind, held by the Dutch Presidency of the EU, issued a declaration last month urging the EU Transport, Energy and Telecom Council to recommend increased support for the sector. The council -- made up of ministers from all member states -- is due to meet on November 29.

The declaration is "a great leap forward," says Corin Millais of the European Wind Energy Association. "For the first time, representatives from governments, energy agencies, NGOs and industry have agreed on the essential elements that are necessary to unlock the potential of Europe's massive offshore wind energy resources."

The declaration acknowledges that offshore wind is unlikely to become immediately competitive, but it calls on the European Commission and International Energy Agency to "get the prices right" by ensuring the cost of pollution is taken into account when weighing up the price of wind against thermal energy technologies. The document recommends priority for subsidising offshore wind research and development under the EU's next R&D Framework Programme. It urges the setting up of a wind energy "technology platform" to raise more research funds for wind power through public/private partnerships. And it calls on the Commission to increase support for offshore wind under Structural Fund budgets.

More multi-national and co-ordinated research is needed into the effects of offshore wind farms on the environment, says the declaration. Offshore wind should be a strategic priority for the Trans-European Energy Network, and the Commission should encourage co-operation between national governments and transmission system operators to find Europe-wide solutions to grid system issues like costs, size, system balance and interconnection.

"Give wind energy wings," said Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, Dutch minister of economic affairs at the seminar in Egmond held September 30-October 1. The sense of urgency to develop offshore wind power is clear, he added. The Dutch presidency is keen to push the technology and the issue is currently on the agenda of the November Council meeting of European government ministers. The presidency hopes the declaration will lead to the Council authorising the European Commission to propose further measures. An early draft of the Council's conclusions, to be agreed at the meeting if all goes as expected, does indeed call on the Commission to follow up the findings of the Egmond seminar.