EU offshore wind goals are achievable, with the right grid investments and spatial planning

The European Commission’s goals for offshore wind – between 230 GW and 450 GW by 2050 – are achievable provided the right investments are made in electricity grids and governments take the right approach to maritime spatial planning. That’s the conclusion of a new WindEurope report called “Our Energy, Our Future.”

The report examines where 450 GW of offshore wind could be deployed most cost-effectively around Europe, bearing in mind there is only 20 GW today. This goal is part of a European Commission scenario to deliver climate neutrality by 2050.

The report concludes that 212 GW should be deployed in the North Sea, 85 GW in the Atlantic (including the Irish Sea), 83 GW in the Baltic, and 70 GW in the Mediterranean and other Southern European waters. This reflects the relative wind resources, proximity to energy demand and location of the supply chain. The report also breaks down how each country would deploy in an optimal scenario. The 380 GW that would be deployed in Northern European waters would require less than 3% of the total space there.

The report considers how much it would cost to build these large volumes of offshore wind. It shows how maritime spatial planning is key to minimize costs. In at least 60% of the North Seas, it is not possible to build offshore wind farms today. These “exclusion zones” exist for environmental reasons or because space is set aside for fishing, shipping and military activity. They mean only less than a quarter of the required volumes can be built at very low cost – below €50/MWh.

Building 450 GW of offshore wind by 2050 requires Europe to install more than 20 GW a year by 2030, compared to 3 GW today. WindEurope says it’s crucial that governments provide visibility on volumes and revenue schemes to give long-term confidence for investments. Governments should also anticipate this significant growth in offshore wind in their planning for offshore and onshore grid connections. Offshore grid investments will need to rise from less than €2 billion in 2020 to €8 billion a year by 2030. Europe also needs to provide a regulatory framework for offshore wind farms that have grid connections to more than one country.

Capital expenditure on offshore wind, including grids, will need to rise from about €6 billion a year in 2020 to €23 billion by 2030 and thereafter up to €45 billion.

“The EU says Europe needs at least 10 times as much offshore wind as we have today to meet the 2050 goal of decarbonising energy,” said WindEurope Chief Executive Officer Giles Dickson. “The International Energy Agency believes offshore wind could become the no. 1 source of power generation in Europe in the early 2040s. The report shows that it is do-able and affordable. But three things need to happen: (1) the offshore wind supply chain keeps growing; (2) we build the grid connections; and (3) we get the maritime spatial planning right.”

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