Nine European countries have pledged to multiply the capacity of offshore wind farms in the North Sea by eight times current levels before 2050, turning it into what Belgium’s energy minister called “Europe’s biggest green power plant”.
Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, Olaf Scholz, the Chancellor of Germany, and Ursula von der Leyen, the Chief of the European Commission, along with the Prime Ministers of Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark, and Luxembourg, announced the plan. The summit in Ostend, Belgium, saw commitments from Norway's Prime Minister and Britain's Energy Security Minister, Grant Shapps, to construct additional wind farms, establish "energy islands" that connect renewable generation sites at sea, and work on carbon capture initiatives.
“We are unlocking our offshore energy ambitions,” the Belgian energy minister, Tinne van der Straeten, said. “Coordination is absolutely essential. If each of the nine countries acts alone, we’ll collectively fail. Planning is at the core of everything.”
The nine countries have set a goal of increasing their combined North Sea offshore wind capacity to 120GW by 2030 and 300GW by 2050 with the dual objectives of reducing reliance on Russian gas and significantly decreasing the use of fossil fuels that emit CO2.
The capacity targets represent a further doubling of goals announced at a similar four-country summit in Esbjerg, Denmark, in May 2022.
Europe's largest cross-border electricity connection linked to an offshore wind farm was announced by the Netherlands and Britain. Additionally, the EU and Norway committed to creating infrastructure to capture and store CO2 from depleted North Sea gas fields.
Currently, Britain has 45 offshore wind farms that generate 14GW of power, and intends to increase its capacity to 50GW by 2030. Germany has 30 offshore wind farms that produce 8GW, while the Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium follow with 2.8GW, 2.3GW, and 2.3GW, respectively. An official stated that France plans to achieve a massive expansion to 40GW by 2050. Furthermore, they mentioned that offshore wind energy is projected to be the primary source of renewable energy production between 2030 and 2050, surpassing solar energy and land-based wind farms.
The investment required to ensure the North Sea wind energy targets are met is huge – the EU recently calculated €800bn would be needed to reach 300GW by 2050 – and wind energy companies have said significant state funding will be essential.