Conference Report Offshore: The Stockholm Declaration

A total of 29 recommendations for action in four policy areas to enable offshore wind power "to provide a significant contribution to European energy supply at low costs" make up the Stockholm Declaration.

The declaration was published in September at the close of a workshop organised by the Swedish government during its presidency of the European Union (see main story). Taking part in the workshop were industry representatives, market regulators and members of the scientific community drawn from 12 EU member countries and Norway.

The four policy areas identified in the declaration are maritime spatial planning; grid development; flexible market support mechanisms and research.

The declaration makes a strong call for co-ordination between EU member countries on all uses of the sea through the establishment of common principles for maritime spatial planning that take the conservation of protected areas into account. Collection and sharing of all relevant data is called for and the European Commission is urged to speed-up its maritime planning work.

The two pages of grid recommendations accept that a national approach to connecting offshore wind farms to electricity networks will prevail, but the declaration calls for a detailed specification of the case for an EU-led North Sea offshore grid, including technical, financial, economic and spatial arguments. In the absence of an EU-wide approach, the document requests development of fair cost allocation for offshore grid construction being carried out by some countries, given that the benefits are spread across Europe.

Development of a coherent work plan as a base for offshore grid policy decisions is requested. The plan should specify what is expected of all players in the sector and map all technical, financial, regulatory and environmental issues. A specific plea is made for Europe's transmission system operators and the commission to ensure that offshore generation scenarios used for network planning over the next ten years are consistent with national renewable energy action plans aimed at meeting the EU's overall target for 20% renewable energy by 2020.

On market regulatory issues, the declaration calls for "willing member states and third countries" to be prepared to share their offshore wind power resources so that the 2020 targets can be reached. In EU jargon, this can be achieved through the use of flexible mechanisms, whereby countries with an abundance of green power generation may virtually sell the excess to countries struggling to meet their targets.

When reviewing national action plans, the commission should encourage member states to act early on flexibility mechanisms. Furthermore, the declaration asks the commission to identify conflicts between existing regulations and the goals of the renewable energy directive.

Research and development (R&D) is vital for transferring knowledge of wind power on land to the offshore environment, states the declaration. It calls for EU financial support to be allocated to offshore R&D. The declaration also stresses the importance of regional R&D co-operation, focused research on specific activities in adjacent seas and the sharing of collected data.

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