Nine European countries in Ostend to multiply wind power in the North Sea
Kenzo Tribouillard Agence France-Presse Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo welcomed the President Frenchman Emmanuel Macron in Ostend.
A summit brings together nine European countries in Belgium on Monday to seal their common ambition to increase their wind turbine capacities tenfold in the North Sea, a colossal industrial challenge to accelerate the decarbonization of the continent.
The meeting of Ostend, where French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte will meet, aims to develop wind farms, connection infrastructures, industrial chains, green hydrogen projects…
“Our common North Sea wind power target is 120 gigawatts in 2030, and at least 300 GW in 2050,” the leaders of the nine countries said in an op-ed published by Politico< on Monday. /i>. The current cumulative capacities are around 30 GW.
“Our path is clear. Now it's about picking up the pace,” they sum up. In practice, they want to speed up authorization procedures, better coordinate tenders, “strengthen” production chains, diversify supplies of critical components to reduce their dependence on China…
The leaders from seven countries of the European Union (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark and Luxembourg — major funders of projects), Norway and the United Kingdom will be present.
If the United Kingdom has 14 GW of offshore wind power and Germany 8 GW, the capacities of Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands are between 2 and 3 GW, and those in France and Norway at around 0.5 only.
“The orders of magnitude are gigantic […] Offshore wind power will likely become the main source of renewable energy production, far ahead of solar and onshore wind power,” we observe at the Élysée.
In the shallow North Sea, wind turbines “can be installed in large numbers” not too far from the coast, “under wind conditions that can produce a lot of” green energy at a “particularly competitive” cost. », Adds the same source.
France is aiming for 40 gigawatts of offshore wind power in service by 2050 on all coasts.
After an initial meeting of four countries in May 2022, this second “North Sea summit” is part of Europe's climate objectives as well as the desire to cut its dependence on imported fossil fuels following the war in Ukraine.
The EU recently agreed to double the share of renewables in its energy consumption to 42.5% by 2030, in particular by speeding up the authorization procedures for infrastructure. Brussels also offered regulatory relief for green industries in mid-March.
However, to achieve the Ostend objectives, “major new investments are needed in production capacity and supporting infrastructure […] The planned policies are insufficient at the moment”, reacted in a joint declaration about a hundred of companies in the sector.
Nacelles, blades, cables… “Europe has technological and industrial leadership in offshore wind, but does not produce enough of certain crucial elements. A lot of funding is already going to innovation, the challenge is to invest in existing production structures whose capacity must be doubled, tripled, “explained to AFP Pierre Tardieu of the industrial federation WindEurope.
European industry should thus manufacture within five years the equivalent of 20 GW of offshore wind turbines per year, against a capacity of approximately 7 currently… at the risk of saturated factories and bottlenecks on the components.
“The turbine manufacturers are currently operating at a loss, hard hit by the logistical disruptions following [the] COVID, we need punctual public support”, insists Mr. Tardieu, also noting the massive training needs and recruitment: offshore wind power will require 250,000 jobs in 2030, compared to 80,000 today.
The total cost promises to be colossal: at the end of 2020, Brussels estimated the needs at 800 billion euros investment if the EU were to target 300 GW of offshore wind power by 2050.
Environmental NGOs are calling for marine biodiversity impact studies not to be rushed, and WindEurope points out constraints related to fishing and transport.
“But to achieve these wind turbine objectives, we only need between 7% to 10% of the sea basin”, tempers Pierre Tardieu.