The post-COVID-19 world will be very different to that pre-pandemic, and renewables are among the sectors that should come out of the pandemic in a stronger position
Offshore wind is no longer the niche market it was a decade ago. It has become a global market, generating thousands of jobs. Unprecedented, large-scale deployment continues as costs fall and offshore wind demonstrates its ability to compete on cost with any other form of generation and recently awarded projects proceed without subsidy.
A holistic approach will be essential to the offshore wind strategy, and the European Commission needs to consider EU energy, environmental, maritime, trade and labour rules.
So far, most offshore wind development has taken place in the North Sea, but its footprint is expected to grow and projects are being planned elsewhere, in the Baltic, Irish Sea, the Atlantic, Mediterranean and other areas, all of which have significant potential for large-scale deployment.
But bringing projects such as these to life will need careful consideration of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) across different jurisdictions.
Ensuring grid capacity availability is another important part of the puzzle, and ideally this needs to be planned many years in advance of generation projects.
HVDC hubs have a number of potential advantages for multiple mid-size (500 MW) projects, enabling them to be connected, limiting the number of cable corridors to shore and the need for complex, time-consuming consent applications. Such an approach would be beneficial at regional and national levels.
Greater use of interconnectors between countries should also be part of the future European grid system and would facilitate timely dispatch of electricity generated offshore to load centres where it is most needed.
The North Sea Wind Power Hub should clearly be at the heart of the future development of offshore wind in the EU, but will need support and co-operation between public, private and civil stakeholders.
Enabling offshore wind development to take place more quickly is also important if large-scale projects are to be realised and offshore wind is to be rolled-out at scale. Simplifying and clarifying procedures in EU directives and national legislation needs to be at the heart of the strategy, in order to avoid delaying projects of national and regional importance.
Sector coupling – a concept that has been actively promoted in the EU – will also be important to the development of offshore wind in European waters, as is the potential for the use of offshore wind as a source of green hydrogen that can be used to store energy at scale.
Countries such as Denmark, Germany and the UK paved the way to get the offshore wind industry to where it is now. Now is a critical moment to build on the momentum they generated and use the European Commission’s offshore wind strategy as a platform to take the sector to the next level.
Offshore wind has already proven its value and can become one of the backbones of the European energy mix in the decades to come.
In the UK, the offshore wind Sector Deal demonstrates how industry can work together with government to produce an inspirational plan for the future.
Now, the EU has a chance to take that inspirational approach and apply it at continental level, with all of the export opportunities in countries such as the US and regions such as the Asia Pacific that will also flow from that.
Rassim Hariz is principal consultant and head of business development, EU/APAC/US, at Offshore Wind Consultants, part of AqualisBraemar.