EU commissioner urges cooperation to deliver renewable aims

Europe’s commissioner for energy has said the continent has to come together if it is to deliver a successful energy transition.

Speaking at the North Seas Energy Cooperation Ministerial, in the Netherlands, Kadri Simson (pic) said last year Europe was in the “midst of the worst energy crisis in 50 years”.

“Inflation was soaring, supply chains were experiencing frequent disruptions,” she added. “One year on, a lot has changed. Challenges still remain.

“But we have emerged from the crisis with greater strength and unity. And more than ever, we are committed to accelerating Europe’s clean energy transition.”

Simson  said the key to this energy transition are offshore renewables.

“They will become an indispensable part of our energy mix, with the North Sea leading the way for their deployment,” she said. “In fact, the North Sea is poised to become Europe’s ‘Green Power Plant’.”

She told delegates over 16 GW of offshore wind has been installed in the EU, of which approximately 14 GW in the North Seas, with targets agreed this year point to even greater ambition.

Member States agreed to achieve 111 GW of offshore renewables by 2030.

“This means installing more than 10 times the 1,2 GW installed last year in the EU,” Simson explained. “This is huge. But we can get there.

“It will require more co-operation between Member States and a strong commitment from all stakeholders, including industry. New projects have been announced to deliver on these targets.”

“To ensure we deliver in a swift and sustainable fashion, we now need to speed up efforts,” she continued. “Let me make a few brief points on how I see the way forward.

“First, we need to plan our energy system in a more integrated way, looking at the whole picture. We especially need to look at hydrogen infrastructure and electrolysers in the broader context of energy infrastructure in the North Seas.

“And while doing so, given the limited marine space, we need to strike the right balance and have a regional approach to Maritime Spatial Planning.

“The Greater North Sea Basin Initiative will help to achieve this, building on the existing work under the North Seas Energy Cooperation.”

She explained the commission has put in place a comprehensive set of measures for massively scaling up and speeding up offshore renewables.

Under the revised framework for trans-European energy networks, there are special provisions for offshore grids.

“We’ll be publishing the first Union list of projects of common interest and mutual interest end of this month, and no doubt the list will reflect this,” Simson said. “Under the revised Renewable Energy Directive, we are facilitating offshore deployment.

“For instance, Member States will have to publicly disclose their plans for offshore volume procurement through tenders. We have also simplified and shortened permitting procedures for renewables, including repowering and grids.

“And under the reform of the EU’s Electricity Market Design, several crucial elements will make a difference for offshore projects. These include Power Purchase Agreements, Contracts for Difference, a transmission access guarantee for offshore wind farms connected to hybrid interconnectors, and anticipatory investments for grids.”

She added: “However, as we head towards the end of this Commission’s mandate, we want to give renewable and wind manufacturers all the support they need. This is crucial right now.

“For a long time, wind technology has been a truly European supply chain, fairly distributed across almost all Member States. It is an uncontested global leader, with European manufacturers responsible for 94% of the EU offshore sector’s installations.

“And yet, today, the industry is under strain, for a number of reasons:

“Rising costs and profit margins squeezed, rise in interest rates, disruptions in global supply chains, long permitting and authorisation processes, and growing, sometimes unfair, pressure from international competitors.

“Our proposal for a Net-Zero Industry Act was a first step to design a better business environment and market access framework for selected technologies. Including offshore wind supply chains and grids.”

She continued: “But the new Wind Power Package, which the Commission adopted last month, takes it to the next level.

“Not only does it defend a strategic sector and source of technical innovation, high quality jobs, and growth opportunities. It shows how far we will go to ensure the wind sector, including offshore, grows and helps to deliver the energy transition.

“The package presents actions across different areas on permitting, auction system, access to financing, skills, trade issues and level playing field.”

I know we’ll delve into the details of this Package later today but let me highlight a couple of important next steps.

Simson revealed the Commissions would expect Member States to commit to specific pledges on wind energy deployment volumes between 2024 and 2026, at least.

“We need to have a clear and credible overview of wind energy deployment in the next years, by the end of the year, to make the environment more predictable for offshore wind projects,” she explained.

The Commission will work together with Member States and the wind industry on a common EU Wind Charter where the Commission, Member States, and stakeholders, each take ownership for actions within their remit.

“I invite all Member States and industry representatives here today to sign up, before the end of the year, to voluntary commitments as part of this Wind Charter,” she said. “Please do not let this opportunity slip.

“Because the challenge facing the European wind industry will only be solved through collaboration.”

“Certainly, we face challenges. But at the same time, there has probably never been greater momentum.

“Together we can do big things on offshore in the North Seas. Together we can – and will – deliver on Europe’s energy transition.”