North Sea region countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, and later also the UK) have agreed to further strengthen their energy cooperation, to improve conditions for the development of offshore wind energy in order to ensure a sustainable, secure and affordable energy supply in the area. The initiative focuses on building of missing electricity links, allow more trading of energy and further integration of energy markets and reinforcing regional cooperation which will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance security of supply in the region.
Questions this practice may help answer
- How is political support assisting the implementation of offshore wind energy farms?
- What actions need to be developed to stimulate the development of a North Sea Energy grid with offshore wind farms?
- Which Maritime Spatial Planning actions contribute to support the implementation of offshore wind farms in the North Sea?
Studies have shown the potential for up to €5.1 billion worth of savings when taking a coordinated approach to offshore grid development in the North Sea. This is due to fewer and shorter cables being required to connect offshore wind installations to land. There are also clear benefits to further market integration, facilitated by new interconnectors. Finally, gains could be realised by closer cooperation on environmental and marine management with respect to infrastructure development. It is for this reason that the countries have decided to work more intensely together on offshore energy developments. To political initiative will make sure there is enough political support for the developments and also it makes it possible to allocate resources it. The Political Declaration on energy cooperation between the North Seas Countries has incorporated the findings and network of the The North Seas Countries’ Offshore Grid Initiative (NSCOGI) when it started in 2016.
Aspects / Objectives
To facilitate the further cost-effective deployment of offshore renewable energy, in particular wind, through voluntary cooperation, with the aim of ensuring a sustainable, secure and affordable energy supply in the North Seas countries, thereby also facilitating further interconnection between North Seas countries and–whilst focusing on a step-by-step approach –with the perspective of further integration and increased efficiency of wholesale electricity markets in the longer term, contributing to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and in average wholesale price spreads and to enhanced security of supply in the region.
The initiative makes use of a Work Programme for the period 2016-2019. 4 different work areas have been defined:
- Maritime spatial planning
- Development and regulation of offshore grids and other offshore infrastructure
- Support framework and finance for offshore wind projects
- Standards, technical rules and regulations in the offshore wind sector
Considering Maritime Spatial Planning the countries have agreed to work on the following 5 deliverables:
- Coordinating the planning and development of offshore wind and grid projects beyond national borders including area mapping
- Developing a common environmental assessment framework;
- Increasing the availability and interoperability of marine data for planning, impact assessment, licensing and operations
- Exchanging best practices on site preparation and the handling of unexploded ordnance;
- Exchanging best practices on permitting procedures and work on the modalities of a coordinated permitting process for concrete regional or sub-regional joint offshore projects.
Furthermore the countries have decided on the governance and support structure for implementing the initiative. The following key elements are mentioned:
- Integration of existing cooperation: Use of Intergovernmental Offshore Wind Forum (IGF) and North Seas Countries’ Offshore Grid Initiative (NSCOGI)
- A strengthened structure: NSCOGI serves as the basis and a number of measures will be taken to strengthen the NSCOGI.
- Support Groups: Experts, the commission and relevant stakeholders will mirror the work done in the work groups.
- High Level Group: Consisting of representatives of the countries (e.g. ministers), will provide political guidance and support.
- Coordinators Committee: Represents the High Level Group at working level and guide/interlink work done by the Support Groups.
- The North Seas countries and the Commission as co-chairs: EC is guiding and supporting further analysis of concrete concepts for cooperation, but has no decision-making powers as regards concrete cooperation. This remains a national competence.
- The Secretariat General of the Benelux in Brussels: serves as the basic platform for support, e.g. arranging meetings rooms etc, but also more substantive tasks.
Main Outputs / Results
Outline of a coherent wind energy plan for the mid and long term, with an emphasis on the cross border aspects, including spatial plan and taking into account land –sea interactions. Relevant elements of the plan are:
- Inventory of ongoing projects (location, size, status,timelines). This could also be used as starting point for other work areas (therefore maybe a role for Coordinating Committee).
- Possible economic benefits for future projects (macro economic and societal cost reduction) due to choice of locations
- Infrastructure links
- Relation to other users and uses (i.e. shipping, oil & gas, etc.)
- Possibilities within the environmental limits (see Deliverable 2);
- Identification and assessment of benefits, priorities and methodologies to improve cross -border planning
- Timing/planning of different scenarios for future projects (development of a project pipeline)
An agreed common method for an environmental assessments framework. Focussing on:
- Common development of knowledge (incl. cause-effect relations) on the environmental effects of offshore wind
- Common species/habitats that are affected by wind farm development
- Cross border cumulative effect
- Agreement on the scope of the spatial and time dimensions to be used in environmental assessments
Applicability at the operational level of the common method/approach is key
- Identification of data needs
- Regulatory needs (for data which is needed for planning, licensing, permits)
- Inventory of industry needs for data
- Specification of the datasets
- Check if adoption of common EMODnet based standards could be used for data and data products to facilitate sharing of compatible data across sectors and borders
- Collection of new data or products that are presently not covered by EMODnet and delivery to EMODnet through data ingestion
- Advise to extend/change EMODnet standards for the needs of MSP
- Provision of data and services according to the MSP-needs
- Feasibility of a European MSP-Data-Portal/connectivity with EMODnet
Overview of best practices for on site preparation and the handling of unexploded ordnance, including the related environmental impact, building on existing work undertaken by Regional Sea Conventions.
Develop and agree on modalities of a coordinated permitting process for concrete regional or sub-regional joint offshore projects. Ensuring the interface with maritime spatial planning by including linkages with the national maritime spatial plans and processes.
This initiative is an example how countries can work together on establishing common actions and visions, while not dedicating tasks to the European Commission. The institutional situation, as well as the technicalities in the North Sea make it hard to transfer this practice to other seas. However, the method used, as well as the work plan developed on MSP can form an inspiration for other regions to develop something similar.
The responsible authorities in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Commission and the Secretariat General of the Benelux.