A European Green Deal

How offshore wind can help
decarbonise Europe

Introduction and summary

It is the ambition of the new European Commission to at least halve EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and then to reach net-zero by 2050, to help limit global climate change to 1.5°C, as is the objective of the Paris Agreement.

This marks a significant increase from the previous EU climate targets of a 40% reduction by 2030 and the vague policy ambition of 80-95% reduction by 2050. This is the goal of the ‘Green Deal for Europe’.

Decarbonising Europe presents a two-fold challenge: accelerating the transition to renewables in the power sector where fossil fuels are essentially replaced well before 2050 – whilst also phasing out fossil fuels in industry, transport and heating through both direct electrification and indirect electrification by power-to-X technologies, using electricity to produce sustainable, green fuels.

This transformation will increase European electricity demand by a factor of up to 2.5 towards 2050, according to the European Commission (EC) scenario analysis, even with ambitious and necessary energy efficiency measures implemented.

By 2050, power consumption is set to rise by 150% to fuel Europe’s green transformation


Source: European Commission 2018, 1.5TECH Scenario

To decarbonise Europe, renewable power production must become the main source of energy for the entire economy, which means the pace of the renewable energy buildout has to increase. According to EC scenarios, we will need five to eight times more solar, about 3.5 times more onshore wind and 20 times more offshore wind capacity by 2050, compared with today.

This buildout needs to be attained while also protecting the environment and biodiversity and securing a just transition, offsetting jobs lost in the fossil energy sector with new opportunities in the renewables industry – all while ensuring costefficiency to keep the European economy running.

The recent steep cost reductions in renewable electricity technologies, indicate that an ambitious green energy buildout is economically feasible. Renewable energy from solar-, onshore- and offshore wind energy generation now outcompete new coal, gas or nuclear power plants. For offshore wind in Northwest Europe alone, costs have declined by approximately 70% since 2012.

Solar and wind power are now cheaper than fossil and nuclear power in Northwest Europe

EUR/MWh, 2018 prices









Solar PV



Natural gas







Source: BNEF 2019 and Ørsted calculation. Including transmission.

For offshore wind, a 20-fold increase translates into between 400 and 450GW offshore wind capacity installed by 2050, compared to around 20GW today. A simple growth path to reaching 450GW by 2050 implies increasing the current capacity roughly six-fold to 130GW by 2030.

This will require a significant increase from current installation rates for offshore wind. During the 2020’s, at least 7GW of offshore wind capacity will need to be added to the European grid each year, with approximately 20GW per year on average from 2030 to 2050 – compared to the 3-4GW yearly installations today. Without this significant increase, Europe’s green transformation will either be costlier and more difficult – or not feasible at all.

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A ‘Green Deal’-approach 

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