The EU Commission’s major targets for offshore wind energy (between 230 and 450 GW by 2050) can be achieved provided that investments in electricity grids and governments adopt the right approach to maritime spatial planning.
That is the conclusion of a new WindEurope report ‘Our Energy, Our Future’ published at Offshore 2019 in Copenhagen. The report is a mandate from the energy ministers of the 10 ‘North Sea’ countries who coordinate their work on offshore wind energy among themselves and with the Commission.
The report examines where 450 GW of offshore wind energy could be deployed most cost-effectively across Europe, bearing in mind that there are currently only 20 GW. 450 GW of offshore wind energy is part of a European Commission scenario to achieve the climate neutral target by 2050.
The report concludes that 212 GW should be deployed in the North Sea, 85 GW in the Atlantic (including the Irish Sea), 83 GW in the Baltic and 70 GW in the Mediterranean and other southern European waters, of which 13 GW would be installed in Spanish waters, all floating wind. This reflects relative wind resources, proximity to energy demand and the location of the supply chain. The report also breaks down how each country would be deployed in an optimal scenario. The 380 GW to be deployed in northern European waters would require less than 3% of the total space available.
The report considers how much it would cost to build these large volumes of offshore wind energy. It shows how maritime spatial planning is key to minimizing costs. In at least 60% of the North Seas, it is not possible to build offshore wind farms today.
These “exclusion zones” exist for environmental reasons or because space is reserved for fishing, shipping and military activity. They mean that the EU can only build less than a quarter of the required volumes at a very low cost, below € 50 / MWh.
But with a different approach to maritime spatial planning, with climate change at its core, much more could be built at these prices and benefit fully from the dramatic cost reductions achieved in recent years. Multiple use, for example, allowing certain types of fishing in offshore wind farms, would really help.
Building 450 GW of offshore wind by 2050 requires Europe to install more than 20 GW per year by 2030 compared to 3 GW today. The industry is preparing for this, but it is crucial that governments provide visibility on volumes and revenue schemes to give long-term confidence to make the necessary investments.
Governments must also anticipate this significant growth in offshore wind in their planning for onshore grid connections. No less important as there is a 10-year timeframe for planning and building the networks needed for offshore wind energy. Investments in offshore networks should increase from less than €2 billion in 2020 to as much as €8 billion a year by 2030.
Europe also needs to provide a regulatory framework for offshore wind farms that have grid connections to more than one country. These “hybrid” projects would allow assets and infrastructure to be pooled and costs to be reduced.
Capital spending on offshore wind energy, including grids, should increase from around €6 billion a year in 2020 to €23 billion by 2030 and then to €45 billion.
WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said: “The EU says that Europe needs at least 10 times more offshore wind energy than we have today to reach the 2050 goal of decarbonising energy. The International Energy Agency believes that offshore wind energy could become the number 1 source of energy generation in Europe in the early 2040s. The report shows that it is feasible and affordable. But three things must happen: (1) that the offshore wind supply chain continues to grow; (2) build the grid connections; and (3) get the maritime spatial planning right. If you do all of this,” the report says, “you can get the scenarios that the Commission and the IEA have set up.