EU’s Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy: What it means

EU’s Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy: What it means

The European Commission is in the works of preparing a comprehensive strategy in order to harness the various forms of offshore energy that the oceans and seas can provide, which entails wind, waves and tides (https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/eus-offshore-renewable-energy-strategy-taking-shape/).

The above-mentioned sources of energy will combat the challenges that onshore renewables face, such as hills, buildings and roads or other human activities, which make it difficult to connect to the grid.

With this in mind, the energy of the oceans can be harnessed by modern technologies without emitting any greenhouse gases, making offshore renewable energy a potential cornerstone of the clean energy transition in the EU. This will play a pivotal role for the supranational Community in its pursuit to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 (https://ec.europa.eu/energy/topics/renewable-energy/eu-strategy-offshore-renewable-energy_en).

Within the offshore renewable sector, a huge boost in investments is needed and the continued development of European energy infrastructure, regulatory frameworks, market design, and research and innovation are necessary to foster and improve offshore renewable energy.

For the purposes to ensure that the offshore renewable energy will contribute towards EU’s ambitious energy and climate targets, it was stated that the Commission would put forward a dedicated strategy by end of year 2020 that would assess its potential contribution and propose ways forward to support the long-term sustainable development of this sector.

It should be noted that the EU Commission had initially aimed to publish its strategy in mid-October but this has now been pushed back until “later in the year,” EURACTIV understands (https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/eus-offshore-renewable-energy-strategy-taking-shape/).

As reflected from the above, the EU executive wants to leverage “the huge potential of offshore renewable energy deployment” in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean as well as the Atlantic Ocean.

Indicative of the EU’s intentions to see this through, and in preparation of its strategy, the Commission welcomed contributions from stakeholders and citizens to the roadmap launched on 16th July which was open until 13th August 2020; to the public consultation that was open until 24th September 2020; as well as through position paper analysis, targeted meetings, interviews and live events, such as webinars (https://ec.europa.eu/energy/topics/renewable-energy/eu-strategy-offshore-renewable-energy_en).

Many countries have praised this anticipating strategy, notably Germany, which is particularly keen to develop offshore wind energy, which is by far the biggest offshore renewable energy player at present. It should be noted that last year, Berlin unveiled plans to jolt its stalled wind energy sector with an offshore development roadmap (https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/eus-offshore-renewable-energy-strategy-taking-shape/).

Notwithstanding the aim for “a massive scale-up of offshore wind in Europe”, another objective is to elevate the role of “emerging technologies”, which includes tidal and wave.

Regarding tidal technologies, which are similar to underwater wind turbines, Remi Gruet, CEO of Ocean Energy Europe – an industry association – informed EURACTIV, that it could reach commercialisation first, with some pilot farms already completed (https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/eus-offshore-renewable-energy-strategy-taking-shape/).

It is expected that wave technologies will follow later, as various prototypes are currently being tested and validated in real sea conditions. These range from buoy-like technologies that follow the motion of waves to pull an underwater rope that generates electricity, to gigantic floating structures that use the water to push air through a top-mounted turbine.

As such, accelerating the development of these technologies would be beneficial for the European energy system as a whole, explained Francesco la Camera, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), based in Abu Dhabi.

The Director-General also stated that “their main advantage over wind and solar is that they can help stabilise the electricity system because they don’t suffer the same kind of variability than solar and wind”. He added that, “So, they could offer a way to balance the grid and give flexibility to the energy system, much like hydroelectric dams.”

With this in mind, Ocean Energy Europe calls on the Commission to establish an “ocean energy alliance” bringing together EU member states, the Commission and industry, much like the alliances that have been created to support battery and hydrogen technologies.

In this way, such an alliance would give market visibility to investors, Gruet explained, preferably backed with targets for installed capacity, which he suggests putting at 100 MW by 2025.

On top of that, the Commission should allow early-stage technologies and pilot farms to “blend” different forms of financial support, Gruet further suggests.