Joining European leaders to unlock the huge offshore wind potential of the North Sea(s)

Today I was very pleased to join leaders from across eight European Governments alongside 90 key industry players in Ostend on the Belgian coast for the North Sea Summit.

We have come together in order to pull every lever to accelerate the energy transition in Europe in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and it is extremely positive that the UK is now back at this very important table working with like-minded nations.

We’re all agreed; we need a cleaner, cheaper, more secure energy system. It is clear to me this can only be achieved if it is anchored in renewables, with world leading flexible CCS and hydrogen generation providing back-up and a state-of-the art networks system delivering electricity to where it is needed. And it has to be delivered sooner rather than later.

There has never been a better opportunity in the North Sea, with the resources and expertise it has, to get the job done.

But we also need to confront the challenges we face. Our industry is not large enough to deliver the nine Governments’ commitments and meet the rising demand for renewable electricity and renewable hydrogen.

By the second half of this decade we need to be deploying over 20 GW a year of offshore wind in Europe alone. Major new investments are needed in manufacturing capacity and key infrastructure such as grids and ports. We also need people, lots of them; the offshore wind workforce in Europe needs to grow from 80,000 today to 250,000 by 2030.

We need to start rolling out of innovative projects like the LionLink interconnector announced today that will connect Great Britain and the Netherlands via offshore wind farms, the Aldbrough hydrogen pathfinder to deploy hydrogen production and storage at scale, and develop ‘energy islands’ to cost effectively locate shared HVDC grid infrastructure offshore.

The above are just a few of the steps, which need a more favourable policy environment, for them to happen. I am hopeful this summit can help us deliver.

The recent agreement for the UK to collaborate on the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) framework is an important first step, but there needs to be a strengthened energy relationship between the UK and EU to best meet our collective challenges.

The North Seas including the North Sea, but also the Celtic Sea, the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, can be renewable energy powerhouses, capable of powering Europe for generations. It is incumbent on us to seize this opportunity.

To unlock the offshore wind potential of the UK and Ireland we need collaboration between the UK, Ireland and the EU to put in place the infrastructure plans and market arrangements which will unlock the huge clean energy opportunities around Ireland and Scotland, to boost European energy security and deliver on net zero.

I look forward to seeing what can be achieved over the next few days.

Alistair Phillips-Davies

Chief Executive