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How will offshore wind help Europe go carbon-neutral?

This report, provided by WindEurope, shows that it is feasible to deploy 450 GW offshore wind by 2050. It identifies the challenges involved in marine space, grids and supply chain, making recommendations on how policymakers can help tackle them.

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Questions this practice may help answer:

  • How will offshore wind help Europe go carbon-neutral?
  • How can 450 GW be deployed by 2050?
  • What are the challenges with offshore wind?
  • Where can offshore wind be placed in European seas?

Implementation Context

This report addresses the mandate - given by North Seas Energy Ministers at their High Level meeting in Esbjerg in June 2019 - to examine the need for space, grids and supply chain development for offshore wind.

Aspects / Objectives:

Offshore wind energy is at the core of how Europe can go carbon-neutral. The European Commission has big goals for the sector: between 230 and 450 GW by 2050. Reaching 450 GW is part of a Commission scenario to deliver climate neutrality by 2050. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), offshore wind could become the number one source of power generation in Europe by 2042. Scaling up from 20 GW today to 450 GW by 2050 will require a visionary approach.


In order to produce this report, analytical methods were applied. As a first step, WindEurope had to establish a realistic basis for allocation of 450 GW (gigawatts) across the North Sea and Southern European sea waters. As a result, it was decided that 380 GW could be developed in the North Seas, based on good wind resources available as well as proximity to demand and supply chain efficiencies. As a next step, WindEurope established a vision for offshore wind and associated infrastructure in 2050 with four areas covered: the wider energy system; offshore wind technology; offshore grids; and spatial planning and site allocation. Afterwards, the locations for offshore wind and the 2050 vision, key challenges in achieving the vision of 450 GW by 2050, and the national/international actions needed to address these challenges were discussed and validated.

For efficiency, European waters were divided into two regions: North Seas and Southern European Waters. The North Seas region has been divided into sub-regions by countries, and countries were further divided into subdivisions. The distribution of energy power between regions was determined with the aim of reaching 30% of each country’s power demand by 2050. For countries with multiple subdivisions, the capacity was allocated based on the onshore population in each area, this resulted in 240 GW. For the remaining 140 GW, WindEurope considered the benefits of wide geographical distribution to reduce the variability of energy output due to weather patterns, relative cost of energy from offshore wind that could be allocated in each sub-region (considering environmental and other constraints), and political ambitions in specific countries. 

The region of Southern Europe was allocated the remaining 70 GW of offshore wind, with 17.4 GW for France (which corresponds to 30% of the total capacity of France), 9 GW for Portugal, 13 GW for Spain and 30.6 GW for the rest of the Mediterranean. While these prospects are rather illustrative, this does not necessarily mean that a given country should limit itself to only that capacity.

The report then continues with an analysis of breakdown of offshore wind by country, region and sub-region, as well as costs with and without spatial exclusions. As a result, WindEurope came to the conclusion that it is cost saving to share the sea area with other users and have cost-effective offshore wind, hence the importance of developing a Maritime Spatial Plan. For higher precision, all possible challenges were studied and a policy roadmap with a timeline for action was published in order to help the realisation of the 450 GW vision by 2050. The report ends with the chapter “Assumptions underpinning our vision”, in which estimations for 2050 (after the energy potential described in the report is realised) can be found.

Main Outputs / Results:

This report shows that it is feasible to deploy 450 GW by 2050 and explains where offshore wind farms could best be located.


This is a report designed for North Seas and Southern European waters, but the analysis and thoughts of the writers could be used for other sea basins. 

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