North and Irish Sea renewable energy potential could be boosted with more cooperation

The North Sea and the Irish Sea hold great potential for producing renewable energy, shoring-up Europe's economic growth and creating sustainable jobs. And the best way to tap into this potential is for EU countries bordering these seas to work together, a study finds.

The 'study on regulatory matters concerning the development of the North and Irish Sea offshore energy potential', found that the potential development of offshore wind power is currently being hindered by a lack of collaboration in the region.

Today, offshore grid infrastructure used to bring wind energy from sea to land is largely based on point-to-point interconnections between EU countries. These were developed following bilateral agreements between national governments, the study says.

"No multilateral infrastructures have been planned and constructed so far," according to the study.

Back in 2010, ten EU countries in the region signed a Memorandum of Understanding stating their intent to exploit offshore wind energy in the North and Irish Seas to boost security of energy supply and transit towards a low carbon economy.

The ten countries are: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.

However, today, the countries have different positions on offshore wind and differing regulations. There is also uncertainty surrounding the distribution of costs and benefits among the market players involved, says the study.

It finds that the best way to bring offshore wind power online is via meshed grid connections that link up the wind farms to the shore and the electricity markets of coastal countries. Interconnections between these countries would also help integrate electricity markets in the region and iron out price differentials.

The study also indicates that policies affecting all coastal countries concerned would help drive development forward. The EU's target for at least a 27% share of renewables by 2030 is a step forwards in this direction, it says.

Study on offshore wind energy potential

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