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26th Sep 2021

EU unveils €800bn offshore renewables plan

  • The EU Commission said expansion of the EU’s offshore energy capacity will require less than three percent of European maritime space (Photo: Kim Hansen)

The European Commission unveiled on Thursday (19 November) a strategy to tap into EU's maritime potential for developing renewable energy, which foresees a significant expansion of offshore wind farms and other emerging technologies.

Currently nearly one-third of all electricity consumed in the EU is originated from renewable sources. It is estimated that renewables will produce close to 60 percent of power by 2030 and more than 80 percent by 2050 to achieve the bloc's climate targets.

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Offshore wind itself now represents about two percent of all the electricity consumed in Europe, but it is expected to supply one-third of the demand by 2050.

That is why the commission aims to massively increase the bloc's wind energy production offshore, reaching at least 60 gigawatts (GW) capacity by 2030 and 300 GW by 2050 - which represents a 25-fold increase from the bloc's current offshore wind capacity of 12 GW.

The strategy also calls for an additional 40 GW of ocean energies, mainly wave and tidal devices, and other emerging technologies such as floating wind and solar by 2050.

The commission notes that all Europe's seas, from the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, including overseas territories, hold potential for renewable energy production.

The North Sea is currently the world's leading region for offshore wind, with Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark among the EU's leading offshore wind producers.

But EU countries have started to cooperate more closely to tap the potential of the Baltic Sea, whose region is showing an incipient appetite for offshore wind projects.

The Mediterranean and the Atlantic, meanwhile, are seen as promising sea basins for emerging innovations, such as floating offshore wind or wave and tidal energy technologies.

Massive investment

The EU executive estimates that nearly €800bn of public and private capital are needed by 2050 to build new wind farms at sea, invest in emerging technologies and coordinate countries' power grids.

Annual investments in onshore and offshore grids in Europe need to increase to above €60bn in the coming decade and then increase further after 2030, the commission outlines in its plans.

The bloc's energy legislation will also be revised to attract further private investment, but Brussels will also propose better rules to facilitate the connection of offshore wind farms to more than one country.

Nevertheless, commission vice-president Frans Timmermans already encouraged member states to use EU funds from the recovery package to support investments in offshore energy because it is "a win-win for the environment and the economy".

"Accelerating offshore wind deployment will contribute to Europe's economic recovery. The EU could get up to 141,000 jobs from offshore wind by 2030, up from 62,000 today" Ivan Pineda from the association WindEurope told EUobserver.

Seals and porpoises?

Meanwhile, the commission said that the expansion of the EU's offshore energy capacity will require less than three percent of the European maritime space, but there are still concerns over the potential negative impact of this strategy on some habitats and species.

Green groups warned that the construction of wind farms turbines could lead to the loss of maritime mammals, birds and fishes, who are sensitive to noise and rely on their senses to search for food or refugee.

Previous studies focused on the monitoring of seals and harbour porpoises at wind farms in Denmark showed that pile-driving temporarily expelled animals from the windfarm areas.

"We need clean energy just as much as we need healthy seas," said Sergiy Moroz from the European Environmental Bureau.

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