Together, these challenges raise three broad questions about how to ensure the timely buildout of offshore wind towards 2030 and 2050, to help Europe deliver on its green transformation and stay in line with the Paris Agreement. These questions, which are the topic of this paper, are:
1. How do we find the space for 450GW of offshore wind generation?
How do we find the space for an accelerated buildout of offshore wind generation?
European governments are currently working to develop the maritime spatial plans (MSPs) for the future use of Europe’s seas. How can these be designed with a goal of net-zero in mind?
How do we ensure the buildout is aligned with the need for environmental protection?
Offshore wind energy is a key part of combatting climate change, which is one of the most important threats to Europe’s maritime biodiversity. But offshore wind farms themselves also affect local biodiversity. The benefits and impacts of offshore wind energy is a complex field of marine science, with gaps still to fill. We need to work to improve scientific knowledge to understand and manage the longterm consequences of offshore wind energy buildout.
How do we enable co-existence with other maritime activities?
As European waters share space to other economic activities, finding the space for offshore wind buildout means finding a balance between economic activities, while also protecting the environment and abating CO2 emissions through increased offshore wind buildout.
2. How do we ensure sufficient capacity for transporting offshore wind energy to Europeans?
How can we ensure an adequate and timely buildout of transmission infrastructure?
New, reformed regulation with more agile approval processes and effective incentives to build transmission can help TSOs undertake the needed transmissions grid enforcements in time.
How do we optimise the value of the offshore transmission grid?
The value of offshore transmission connections to offshore wind farms can be substantially increased by connecting to more markets, eventually creating a meshed grid, based on clusters of wind farms. This will allow for trade between markets, while improving dispatch and security of supply. This vision of an advanced offshore grid with interconnectors doubling as export cables, eventually leading to dedicated energy hubs, should be established through a step-wise approach. This way, governments, TSOs and market actors will be able to gradually develop the organisational capacity the cooperation needed.
How do we allow for competition and synergies to reduce costs?
Offshore grid infrastructure has fallen behind in its cost-out journey compared to offshore wind generation. By allowing offshore wind developers to compete in designing and constructing the offshore grid, synergies between the connection and the wind farm, investments in industrialising the supply chain can be unlocked, and costs can be significantly reduced. This will require updated regulation and new models for remuneration of installation and operation grid assets.
3. How do we enable the industry to scale?
What will it take to scale up the industrial supply chain?
To enable significant investment into the industrial supply chain, the industry requires clarity and confidence in a continued pipeline towards and beyond 2030, to unlock the necessary private capital.
How do we make sure the energy demand is shifted towards green electricity and other renewable fuels?
The European green transformation is heavily dependent on consumers in other sectors switching to renewable electricity, either directly through electrification or indirectly through power-to-X technologies. Uncertainty about the pace of the required shift in consumed energy translates into a significant uncertainty regarding investments in renewable electricity and transmission. Therefore, a political push to shift demand to these low-carbon technologies is essential.
What should the governance look like?
Formulating high-level – and eventually multigovern-mental – policies for both the buildout of offshore wind and for the future electrification of the European economy is vital. Both to provide the needed confidence to unlock investments and to facilitate the pragmatic cooperation between governmental entities.