EU’s North Sea countries agree to ramp up offshore wind energy

20 May 2022

To accelerate Europe’s green transition, there must be a massive expansion with offshore wind in the North Sea. The Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen brought together the Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo for the European North Sea Summit in Esbjerg on Wednesday. The summit focused on the central role that offshore wind plays in relation to making the EU free of fossil fuels, and how the North Sea can become a green powerhouse for the EU.

At the summit, the four North Sea countries signed a cooperation agreement – the Esbjerg Declaration – jointly declaring their intention of strengthening EU’s energy security by aiming for ambitious initiatives that will supply Europe with green electricity. According to the Esbjerg agreement, the North Sea will lay the seabed with tens of thousands of new wind turbines with a total capacity of 65 gigawatts, and in 2050, according to the plan, 150 gigawatts. That is about half of the capacity needed by the EU to become climate neutral by 2050. Sven Utermöhlen, RWE CEO Offshore Wind, said that “the declaration…demonstrates the high commitment of national governments to accelerate the build-out of offshore wind energy.”

To put matters into perspective, there are currently 25 gigawatts worldwide and 150 gigawatts is equivalent to 10,000 of the largest wind turbines in existence today. According to the Danish Ministry of Climate, it will be able to supply electricity to 230 million European households by 2050. Nonetheless, Giles Dickson, WindEurope CEO, claimed that “the new commitments on wind will only be delivered if Europe has a viable wind energy supply chain and if it simplifies the permitting of wind farms. Similarly, Jochen Eickholt, CEO of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, argued: ”Abstract targets alone are not enough. We need targeted support to maintain Europe’s technology leadership in offshore wind.”

Coincidingly, the European Commission announced its strategic goal of becoming independent of Russian gasin March. The concrete plan for realizing the goals, called RePowerEU, was presented on the same day as von der Leyen travelled to Esbjerg. After signing the declaration, she voiced that “the more interdependent we become in Europe, the more independent we become from Russia.” However, the Esbjerg Declaration is not directly related to the EU’s plan, but it certainly plays into the EU countries’ desire to get rid of Russian gas and at the same time limit the climate crisis.