Plotting the future of offshore wind power in the North Sea

Last year ten countries signed a declaration on cooperation in offshore wind in the North Seas, acknowledging the need for closer regional collaboration. On the 28 and 29 November, the North Sea Forum, which was set up to implement the declaration, met with stakeholders from the industry at WindEurope’s annual Conference & Exhibition in Amsterdam.

Participants gathered to take stock of progress on the four different work streams: maritime spatial planning, offshore grids, support frameworks and finance, and technical standards.

On 29 November, a high level session opened the forum. It brought together senior policymakers from North Seas countries and offshore wind industry leaders to discuss the way forward. The session was chaired by Ulrich Stribaek, Senior Director and Head of group regulatory affairs at Ørsted and WindEurope Offshore Working Group Chair.

The panellists for the session included Sandor Gaastra, Director-General for Energy, Ministry of Economic Affairs of Netherlands, Christopher Jones, Deputy Director General for Energy at the European Commission, Mel Kroon, CEO of Tennet, Jan Hensmans, Head of Energy Policy Coordinaation and International relations, Federal Public Service of the Economy of Belgium, Michael Simmelsgaard, Head of Offshore Wind at Vattenfall, Dorine Bosman, vice-President Offshore Wind at Shell.

Gaastra emphasised the importance of cooperation to create good the right conditions for the development of offshore wind. For the industry to continue its trends of growth and cost reduction, visibility in the medium-to-long term are required. Jones said that, in the future, the development of country-specific offshore wind farms and transmission assets will no longer be relevant. He added that developing cross-border solutions, such as hybrid projects linking windfarms to interconnectors and allowing them to feed electricity into different markets, will be key to meet the target set by the European Commission.

The panellists also stressed the importance of a long-term vision, including sufficient volumes, to allow the necessary competition that will drive further cost reductions in offshore wind. Innovation, by developing new transmission technologies or the ‘artificial island’ concept, will also be important drivers to further develop offshore wind. Many challenges still need to be tackled, and having the right regulation set in place is crucial to allow for cross-border projects. The North Sea Forum is working on enabling further cooperation and ensuring sustainable, secure and affordable energy supply in the North Seas countries.