North Seas Energy Cooperation
North Seas countries call for European enabling framework for offshore wind energy cooperation on the way to climate neutrality
At today’s Ministerial Meeting of the North Seas Energy Cooperation[i] under the German Presidency, Energy Ministers and the European Commissioner for Energy agreed on the key role of offshore wind energy in reaching Europe’s renewable energy and climate targets up to 2050.
The vast potential of the North Seas could contribute in a significant way to an increased deployment of offshore wind energy. In particular, the accelerated implementation of cross-border offshore wind projects that are interconnected among North Seas countries (joint and hybrid projects) could unleash the potential for an efficient deployment of offshore wind energy. This results from reducing costs and space demand of offshore developments as well as facilitating electricity trade, industrial growth and employment in the region, thereby contributing to the European economic recovery.
In a Joint Statement, Energy Ministers and the European Commissioner for Energy agree that existing barriers should be tackled for an accelerated deployment of multinational hybrid offshore wind energy projects as well as other relevant projects. The Commission is encouraged to develop an enabling framework at EU level, which consists of EU guidance to Member States on the implementation of cross-border projects, adequate electricity market arrangements, and improved and efficient EU financing.
“Joint and hybrid offshore wind projects are expected to play an essential role in reaching the energy and climate targets up to 2050”, Germany’s Minister Altmaier said at the meeting. The potential European contribution of offshore wind energy by 2050 amounts to more than 10 times of today’s installed capacity of 22 GW. To this end, annual installation rates of currently 3 GW per year will have to scale up considerably in the coming years.
However, barriers exist to the implementation of joint and hybrid projects. These include different rules between the countries for the use of the sea bed, substantial coordination efforts to set up joint and hybrid projects, potentially unbalanced allocation of costs and benefits across the involved Member States, or competing interests regarding the use of scarce offshore areas for infrastructure to channel offshore wind and to trade between countries.
Important aspects that need to be tackled by enhanced coordination are the design and timing of offshore wind tenders and methodologies to assess the distribution of costs and benefits of the joint and hybrid projects. Ministers and the European Commissioner also agreed to improve their coordination regarding offshore grid planning and onshore grid connection of offshore wind farms. Furthermore, they agreed to improve coordination between maritime spatial planning and offshore grid planning to facilitate the joint ambition of offshore wind energy deployment in the region.
“Today’s meeting is the European Green Deal in action”, Commissioner Simson said at the meeting. “Only by stronger cross-border cooperation, such as between the North Seas countries, will we be able to sufficiently scale up renewable energy production and make Europe the first climate neutral continent.”
Guidance was given by Ministers and the European Commissioner to the support groups to continue their work and present progress at the next Ministerial Meeting. In the second half of the year, the work will focus on a further development of concrete proposals for hybrid projects, maritime spatial and offshore grid planning, and a long-term vision for the role of offshore renewable energy until by 2050, including the role of hydrogen.
Continuity in the North Seas Energy Cooperation beyond 2020 is already ensured: “The energy transition and in particular this cooperation has always been a key policy priority for Belgium, and a common theme of the Benelux regional cooperation. That is the reason why I have offered my candidacy to take over the Presidency of the North Seas Energy Cooperation in 2021”, Belgian Minister Marghem stated.
In the same vein, Luxembourg Minister Turmes welcomes Belgium’s candidacy for the Presidency, wishing her success while assuring Belgium of Luxembourg’s assistance in these new functions. Minister Turmes from Luxembourg also applauded the great progress made this year under the German Presidency. “Improved and efficient use of EU funds is essential to facilitate the realisation of joint and hybrid offshore wind projects. In terms of recovery the EU recovery plan provides an opportunity to mobilise and efficiently use EU funding for such projects.”
Ministers look forward to the upcoming initiatives at EU level in the context of the European Green Deal, in particular the planned EU Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy foreseen in autumn 2020. Ministers and the European Commissioner will reconvene at the next Ministerial Meeting of the North Seas Energy Cooperation in December.
North Seas Energy Cooperation: new work programme on wind energy at sea
Benelux and other countries situated around the North Sea have today agreed on a new work programme concerning wind energy at sea. Special attention will be paid to a project-based approach to offshore wind farms that are connected to several countries at the same time. The countries will also develop a joint vision on where they want to be with regard to offshore wind energy in the year 2050.
Kadri Simson was installed as the new European Commissioner of Energy scarcely a week ago, yet he has already become acquainted with the Ministers of Energy of the North Sea countries (Benelux, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, United Kingdom and Denmark). These countries - together with the European Commission, and with the Benelux as secretariat - constitute the North Seas Energy Cooperation.
Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg form part of this broader region where the wind at sea blows with sufficient strength to produce approximately 12% of the electricity required for all of Europe by 2030. If the EU wishes to be entirely climate-neutral in 2050, then this figure still needs to be further boosted to 30%. And to make that possible, the countries will have to work together closely, so as to be as cost-efficient as possible, to give this new industry sufficient scale, and to keep a sharp eye out for potential environmental impacts.
With the signal that the ministers have given today, experts can now continue working on e.g. connecting the next round of Dutch wind farms, further out to sea, with the United Kingdom as well. In this way the cables that are laid will offer a double benefit because, when the wind isn´t blowing, electricity can flow from one market to the other. At the same time, the countries will also be doing research on other alternatives, such as e.g. the conversion of wind energy into hydrogen.
High Level in Brussels under NL Presidency
North Sea countries see Benelux-UK region as first international wind-at-sea cluster
On December 19th, the energy and climate ministries of the countries situated around the North Sea consulted about the progress being achieved by their cooperation in the North Seas Energy Forum. In 2016, at the initiative of the Netherlands, the North Sea countries agreed to work together more closely on making the development of wind energy at sea more cost-efficient. Halfway through the action plan, the dual chairmanship (Netherlands and the European Commission) invited the High Level Group on North Seas to draw up an assessment, together with the Benelux secretariat.
The directors-general of the North Sea countries discussed a number of striking results. The Netherlands announced the very first submission for the construction of a large wind farm in the North Sea without subsidy. In the subsidies task force, which meets every three months at the Benelux secretariat, the countries exchange best practices with one another in order to further refine the support mechanisms. The group also worked on a double information mechanism that will give the industry a better view of future tenders while being better spread out over time. This greater investment certainty is lowering the costs for wind at sea, and in the long run will enable the countries to further reduce their subsidies.
The North Sea states also devoted time to looking further into the future. At present the countries are working on energy agreements with a view to 2030. These translate the agreements of the Paris Climate Accord into national policy. They pinpoint the major choices with which affordability, sustainability and reliability of the energy supply must remain guaranteed. Moreover, decisions are now necessary that will facilitate even greater cost savings over the medium term. This involves the deployment of new technologies, such as energy islands, and the creation of economies of scale, precisely by working on a larger international level.
Above all the Benelux-UK region offers many advantages - with the combination of wind-on-sea and energy trading between the countries - for becoming an international energy cluster. Already-initiated discussions and the existing collaboration were the decisive factors for designating this area as a pilot project for the sustainable energy hub of the future.
The Secretary-General of the Benelux, Thomas Antoine, once again extended a hand to the countries: “It is important to base the choices of the future on facts and carefully thought-out studies. But once these are on the table, it is up to the countries to examine them together and decide about the concrete project. As a neutral meeting place, the Benelux secretariat remains your loyal partner in this process."
High Level Malta
Thomas Antoine addresses high-level consultation of the North Seas Energy Forum
The high-level consultation of the countries of the North Seas Energy Forum (Benelux, FR, DE, UK, IE, DK, SE and NO) was held for the first time in Malta. One year after a political declaration was signed, the directors-general for energy reviewed the progress of this regional cooperation on large-scale renewable energy in the North Sea area. Since the beginning, the Benelux Secretariat has been a crucial partner in this initiative, and Secretary-General Thomas Antoine emphasised “the willingness of the Benelux countries to help keep this inspiring project moving forward”. This consultation was co-chaired by the Director-General for Energy of the Belgian FPS Economy, Nancy Mahieu, and by the Director-General for Energy of the European Commission, Dominique Ristori, since this project is one of the priorities of this European Commission.
“A great deal of progress has already been achieved with and by the Benelux countries in this collaboration on the North Sea for more sustainable energy, because we were there at its creation in 2009” said Mr Antoine. He also mentioned the stimulating role played the Benelux in the subsequent organisation of a North Sea Conference in Ostend, and the activities of numerous working groups at the Benelux Secretariat that led to the signing of a ministerial political declaration in 2016.
In the consultation it was agreed that the different working groups will adopt an even more result-oriented approach. In so doing, one will firstly seek to accelerate the developments in a number of promising ´clusters´ for offshore wind energy in the North Sea, such as the area between the Benelux and the United Kingdom. The Benelux Secretary-General recalled to those present a number of useful experiences. For example, he emphasised the importance of giving space to concrete projects in the field in order to make a contribution to the EU renewable energy-objectives, a continued close cooperation between the countries so as to be able to exploit the cost-saving potential of wind energy, and finally to ensure greater control of this energy collaboration with clear roles and responsibilities for all partners.
In 2009 the Benelux countries were initiators of the consultation amongst the North Sea coastal states. Good collaboration in the planning and coordination of wind farms at sea and the corresponding energy networks is naturally of vital importance. In the meantime, the sector has matured and is beginning to be increasingly competitive. Yet more cooperation is needed in order to maximise the cost reductions. Moreover, an adequate scale is essential, and so the countries are looking for new and larger areas that are both ecologically and socially acceptable. After the initial phase of cooperation between 2009 and 2015, and the political declaration under the Dutch EU Presidency signed in Luxembourg in June 2016, this high-level consultation represents yet another major step forward.
Benelux countries sign North Sea Declaration
In the margin of the EU Energy Council and under the direction of Dutch Minister of Energy Henk Kamp, the Energy Ministers of the North Sea coastal states (Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and France), as well as the Benelux countries and the European Commission, have signed a declaration laying out a concrete roadmap for the cooperation that should lead to an integrated network of wind farms in the North Sea. The focus lies on the large-scale development of wind at sea, which will make a contribution to securing a reliable, affordable and sustainable energy supply.
After the Benelux in October of last year organised a major North Sea Conference in Ostend where many parties emphasised the importance of a regional energy collaboration, a new chapter has begun today with the official North Sea Declaration. For example, in four areas special working groups are being set up that, over the coming 2 years, will take concrete steps on harmonising subsidy flows, spatial planning rules at sea, network development and standardisation with regard to components for wind turbines. Legal issues are being looked at, but certainly also more technical agreements on how to deal with practical aspects such as marking, health and safety.
This step is of great importance for the Benelux countries in order to be able to meet the sustainability targets that have been set, while at the same time keeping the costs within limits via innovation and economies of scale.
The declaration formalises the role of the Benelux as a consultation platform. Over the past 5 years the meetings of the North Sea Offshore Grid Initiative have already been organised by the Benelux General Secretariat on the basis of the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by 10 countries in 2010.
This declaration illustrates that there is an ambition and a new élan to bring what some refer to as Western Europe’s energy Silicon Valley to full maturity. The planned investments are huge. A coordinated approach between governments that firstly gives certainty to investors and secondly facilitates innovation thus appears essential in order to get concrete projects up and running.
For background on this declaration please consult Benelux News item:
The 3rd of September 2014
The North Seas Countries’ Offshore Grid Initiative is a regional cooperation of 10 countries to facilitate the coordinated development of a possible offshore electricity grid in the greater North Sea area. It seeks to maximize the efficient and economic use of the renewable energy resources as well as infrastructure investments. This cooperation, formalized by a Memorandum of Understanding in 2010 (video) , following a Political Declaration in 2009, is supported by the energy ministries, the regulators and transmission system operators of the 10 participating countries, and the European Commission.
NSCOGI is subdivided in Working Groups, concerning Grid configuration (Working Group 1), Regulatory issues (Working Group 2) and Planning and Permitting (Working Group 3) and steered by a Programme Board.
To date, they have published the following results:
The Benelux Secretariat facilitates this cooperation. It also offers the neutral platform for cooperation of the North Seas Countries’ Offshore Grid Initiative.
For more information regarding the Benelux General Secretariat :
Frederik Deloof - firstname.lastname@example.org +32 25 19 38 23
The reality of the North Sea offshore grid
Mr R. Schroeder, ENTSO-E
Mr A. Stouge, Sea Star Alliance
Alan Croes, Tennet TSO
The regulatory framework for the offshore grid
Sue Harrison, UK Department for Energy & Climate Change
Less paperwork for better grids
Antina Sander, Renewables Grid Initiative
Martha Roggenkamp,Groningen Research Centre of Energy and Climate Law
Marta Navarrete, Friends of the Supergrid
Claude Turmes, MEP, Chairman EUFORES