EU strategy on offshore renewable energy
Offshore renewable energy consists of many different sources that are abundant, natural and clean, like wind, wave and tidal. These avoid some of the challenges that onshore renewables face – hills, buildings, roads or other human activities which make it difficult to connect to the grid – even if they face additional challenges, such as competition to sea space access.
The energy of the oceans can be harnessed by modern technologies without emitting any greenhouse gases, making offshore renewable energy a potential cornerstone of the clean energy transition in the EU.
The EU strives to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, as emphasised in the European Green Deal, and offshore renewables is therefore of key importance.
Investing in the sector
Offshore renewable energy covers several energy sources and various technologies, which are at different stages of development. These come with their own set of challenges and opportunities for European energy systems, sea-users, industrial actors and civil society.
In the recovery period of COVID-19, it is important to front load investment in offshore renewable energy where possible, as this is likely to boost enduring jobs and economic activity and thereby contributing to the green recovery and long-term sustainable, inclusive growth.
The continued development of European energy infrastructure, regulatory frameworks, market design, and research and innovation is equally necessary to foster and improve offshore renewable energy and facilitate the necessary investment. This includes integrating offshore renewable energy at sea basin level in the North, Baltic, Mediterranean and Black seas, the Atlantic Ocean and the EU’s outermost regions and overseas territories, and ensuring ambitious objectives in national maritime spatial plans.
Regional cooperation for onshore and offshore grid infrastructure developments is also being taken into consideration for the revision of the Regulation on Trans-European Energy Networks (TEN-E) planned by end 2020.
Process towards a new strategy
To ensure that offshore renewable energy can help reach the EU's ambitious energy and climate targets, the Commission published a dedicated EU strategy on offshore renewable energy COM(2020)741 on 19 November 2020 that assesses its potential contribution and proposes ways forward to support the long-term sustainable development of this sector.
To maximise its impact, the EU strategy goes beyond a narrow definition of the factors of energy production and addresses broader issues, such as
- access to sea-space
- industrial and employment dimensions
- regional and international cooperation
- the technological transfer of research projects from the laboratory into practice
While reinforcing the role of offshore energy in the energy mix, the strategy underlines that sustainability and, more specifically, the protection of the environment and biodiversity will be key principles for all dimensions concerned.
This strategy will be discussed with the Council and the European Parliament, with regional representatives, stakeholders, social partners, NGOs and EU citizens, before taking forward the policy actions proposed. As a first step, the Council adopted conclusions on 11 December 2020, on fostering European cooperation in offshore giving political direction to the Commission to ensure a swift follow-up to these conclusions and the EU offshore renewable energy strategy.
While preparing the strategy, the Commission welcomed contributions from stakeholders and citizens
- to the roadmap launched on 16 July and which was open until 13 August 2020
- to the public consultation that was open until 24 September 2020
- through position paper analysis, targeted meetings, interviews and live events, such as webinars
- a stakeholder webinar on 9 July 2020 which allowed to exchange views on key issues and ways forward to support the step-up and long-term sustainable development of this sector
The European Commission also contracted out a number of targeted studies to serve as input for different dimensions of the strategy.
- An EU Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy COM(2020) 741 final
- Staff Working Document accompanying the EU Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy SWD(2020) 273 final
- Factsheet:Offshore renewable energy strategy (available in all EU languages)
- Factsheet: Offshore renewable energy - key technologies (available in all EU languages)
- A European Green Deal
- 2050 long term strategy
- EU strategy on energy system integration
- Ocean and hydropower
- Onshore and offshore wind
- Working group on offshore renewable energy
- Press release on the offshore renewable energy strategy (19 November 2020)
- Memo (Q&A) on the offshore renewable energy strategy (19 November 2020)
- Study: Market Arrangements for Offshore Hybrid Projects in the North Sea
- Study on the offshore grid potential in the Mediterranean region
- Study: Technical requirements for connection to HVDC grids in the North Sea
- Study: Financing of offshore hybrid assets in the North Sea