While the European Commission readies its new industrial strategy for Tuesday (10 March), it is also working on plans to promote wind farms at sea – an area where Berlin is keen to make quick progress. EURACTIV Germany reports.
The Commission’s offshore wind strategy is expected to be presented in October, according to officials at the Commission’s directorate for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MARE).
In Berlin, the government is waiting for the EU proposals so that member states can take a position on the strategy before the end of December, when Germany’s presidency of the EU Council comes to an end.
Expanding offshore wind farms is one of Germany’s top priorities to push renewable energies. Berlin intends to use its EU presidency, as well as Germany’s presidency of the North Sea Cooperation this year, to work out a international framework for the construction of wind farms before the end of the year.
“We want to create a European framework that gives us planning security”, said an official at Germany’s economics and technology ministry who was addressing a conference of the Federal Association of Offshore Wind Farm Operators in Berlin on Wednesday (4 February).
Offshore wind should increase fivefold in the EU
Hopes are high that offshore electricity could become the EU’s first energy source by the early 2040s, according to the International Energy Agency.
According to EU Commission estimates, the EU would have to produce between 230 and 450 GW of wind at sea by 2050 to meet the targets laid out in the European Green Deal – a considerable amount compared to the 22 GW currently produced in European waters.
In November, industry association WindEurope presented a study on how such a massive expansion could take shape. According to the study, offshore wind capacity would have to rise by 7 GW each year until 2030, and by 18 GW annually afterwards.
“To achieve this, however, we need to find a new approach to maritime spatial planning. We need multiple uses of water areas,” stressed WindEurope chairman Giles Dickson.
Currently, the areas for potential wind farms are limited because they are earmarked for fishing or excluded for military or nature conservation reasons.
However, if more sea areas is not made available, Europe would only be able to build 112 GW of offshore wind instead of 450, the industry association warned.
According to WindEurope, Germany would account for 36 GW of offshore wind power. Yet, Germany’s wind industry is confident that there is more than 50 GW, an amount which will be needed to compensate for the coal phase-out and to exploit the potential for green hydrogen in Germany.
German ambitions for offshore wind farms are therefore high, and the national expansion target for 2030 is to be raised from 15 to 20 GW this year. Currently, Germany has 1,469 wind turbines at sea, which produce about 7.5 GW of electricity.
EU member states developing their own wind farm plans until 2030
“The offshore targets for the European Green Deal are extremely ambitious, but they are also an industrial opportunity for Germany,” said the official in Berlin, adding that Germany needs to “look beyond its national borders” to make use of this potential.
For instance, talks with Poland are already underway to promote joint offshore projects in the Baltic Sea, he indicated.
In the North Sea, Germany is already involved in the world’s first cross-border wind farm. Baltic 2, also known as Kriegers Flak, is an association of three wind farms with a combined capacity of 600 MW. The turbines are connected to the German and Danish power grids via an electric sub-sea cable, that will soon also link up to Sweden.
But there is still no EU-wide regulatory framework for joint projects of this kind.
Some questions, such as how to distribute the high costs of connection to the land or the responsibility of national grid operators, remain unresolved.
The Commission’s offshore strategy will probably not provide clear answers to all these questions, according to the official at DG MARE. However, it could still provide the Commission with a basis to push legislative measures for international wind farms.
It should also encourage EU member states to pay more attention to transnational spatial planning for offshore wind projects. Member states are currently working on their maritime spatial plans until 2030, in which they set out which offshore projects they want to build.
Once the national plans are submitted – in theory before March of next year – the Commission will have one year to compare them with National Energy and Climate Plans and the EU’s new climate targets for 2030.
The aim is to optimise spatial planning and cost sharing between countries so that Europe has a chance of reaching 450 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2050.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]