Europe invested a record €26bn in offshore wind in 2020

Europe invested in 7.1 GW of new offshore energy, but will need to keep increasing its capacity to meet the EU's target of 60 GW by 2030 and 300 GW by 2050. [CARMEN JASPERSEN / EPA]

Europe invested €26.3 billion in new offshore wind farms in 2020, financing 7.1 GW of new capacity, despite the COVID pandemic, according to industry association WindEurope.

The farms will be built over the coming years, adding to the 2.9 GW of offshore wind capacity constructed in 2020.

“€26 billion in new investments in 2020 is a huge vote of confidence in offshore wind. Investors see that offshore wind is cheap, reliable, and resilient – and that governments want more of it,” said Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope.

“These investments will create jobs and growth. Every new offshore wind turbine generates €15 million of economic activity. We expect the 77,000 people working in offshore wind today in Europe to be 200,000 by 2030,” he added.

In 2020, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and France all saw final investment decisions for offshore wind, but the industry still has a long way to go to meet the EU’s target of 60 GW of offshore capacity by 2030 and 300 GW by 2050.

2020 also saw nine new offshore wind farms come online across five countries, including the Netherlands, which connected 1,493 MW, and Belgium, which connected 706 MW. The UK and Germany also had new farms start producing energy, while Portugal completed the installation of a floating offshore wind farm.

This follows the trend of 2019 when 10 new wind farms came online, adding 3.6 GW of capacity.

Offshore wind boom 'not enough' to reach EU climate goals

A record 3.6 gigawatts of new offshore wind capacity was added across Europe in 2019, but the pace of deployment is still too slow to reach Europe’s ambitious climate targets, according to new industry figures published on Thursday (6 February).

“The new installations show the resilience of the offshore wind industry. Europe’s existing offshore wind farms kept operating. We kept building new wind farms. We kept making new turbines,” said Dickson.

Europe now has 25 GW of offshore wind, with 116 farms across 12 countries – 40% of which is in the UK.

However, while the UK is a European leaders in wind energy, WindEurope has criticised its recent moves, saying the latest 8 GW of capacity auctioned was not in line with the country’s aim to quadruple offshore wind capacity to 40 GW by 2030. The bidding system, combined with the limited sites available and high demand, risked very high bids, it warned.

France and Poland are also set to increase their fleets, with France starting work on a 1 GW offshore wind farm to be finished by 2023 and Poland passing the Offshore Wind Act, aiming to reach a capacity of 28 GW by 2050.

EU countries must match promises with policy on wind power, industry says

EU member states must introduce policies to support their wind power ambitions, according to industry lobby group WindEurope.

“Offshore wind is no longer just about the North Sea. It’s rapidly becoming a pan-European affair. More and more countries are making commitments on it. Poland, Spain, Greece, Ireland, the three Baltic States all have plans,” said Dickson.

More countries have committed to contracts for difference to support wind farms, meaning they bid to produce energy at a certain price and are either subsidised or pay back profits depending on the market price.

Alongside this, six major power purchase agreements for offshore wind were signed in 2020, showing corporate demand for offshore energy, including from Nestle, Amazon and Deutsche Bahn.

“Let’s keep up this momentum. We now need a comprehensive legislative framework for hybrid offshore wind projects, improved maritime spatial planning and streamlined permitting procedures to unleash the full potential of Europe’s offshore wind,” said Dickson.

LEAK: EU aims for 25-fold growth in offshore wind by 2050

Offshore wind capacity in the EU “should be multiplied by 25 times by 2050” as the European Commission looks for all possible ways of boosting the share of renewables in energy consumption, according to a draft policy document seen by EURACTIV.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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