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Policy News, BB200703

Berlin workshop calls for a common EU policy for offshore wind

06.03.2007

On 22-23 February 2007, policy makers from more than 12 European countries repeated their call to initiate a policy for offshore wind power, in the form of an Action Plan for offshore wind power deployment. The Berlin recommendations also emphasised the crucial role and the urgency of joint projects between EU Member States in promoting an economically and ecologically sound development for offshore wind power.

Around 100 representatives from European governments, the European Commission, the wind power industry and the scientific community from 12 EU Member States took part in a two day policy workshop dedicated to the deployment of offshore wind in Europe. Held by the BMU in the Technical University of Berlin, under the auspices of the EU Presidency, this workshop was the third in a series of such events. The political cooperation between Member States on offshore wind power was initiated by a workshop on offshore wind energy, organised by the Dutch Presidency, which took place in Egmond, Netherlands in 2004, followed up by a second workshop organised in Copenhagen, Denmark.

All three workshops pursued a similar objective to work towards a European policy for offshore wind power, in the form of an Action Plan for offshore deployment, and various agreements were reached throughout the process.

- In Egmond, a declaration was signed (see Brussels Briefing October 2004)
- In Copenhagen, participants agreed on a strategy to further boost offshore wind (see Brussels Briefing November 2005)
- In Berlin, participants agreed on further recommendations to boost offshore wind.

Since the Copenhagen strategy, noticeable progress has been made in relation to offshore wind energy, including the:
- approval of a favourable law in Germany at the end of 2006 that collectivizes the cost of grid connection;
- set up of a European Wind Energy Technology Platform (see Brussels Briefing October 2006), in which offshore wind research will be a priority;
- development of several studies on environmental impacts of offshore wind energy; and
- approval of a number of key projects in the North Sea and, to a lesser extent, in the Atlantic Ocean/Mediterranean sea.

The development of offshore wind is also extended to additional European countries. France adopted a favourable feed-in tariff in 2006 (0,13 €/kWh for the first 10 years), and Spain is currently discussing a new tariff for offshore wind (around 14.6 c€/kWh). Offshore wind is becoming a project of real European interest, bringing together numerous Member States and an increasing number of industry sectors.

In Berlin, participants confirmed their support for a better framework of conditions for offshore wind energy deployment in Europe and joint projects by the Member States. In the workshop’s opening speech, Michael Müller, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Environment Ministry stated that "Our offshore wind power technology is still in its infancy. This workshop has shown the important role of joint projects between the Member States in promoting an economically and ecologically sound development." The Federal Minister’s warm words of commitment toward offshore wind energy were echoed by Arthouros Zervos, EWEA president. “The offshore wind industry sector needs stability, commitment and innovation. What we are witnessing now in the onshore wind market is the strong effect of the EU Renewable Electricity Directive passed in 2001, showing that the right and stable framework is crucial to investments and guarantees growth. We need similar efforts and commitment for offshore wind power.

EU policy on offshore wind power

The idea of a European policy for offshore wind energy is not new. It was first aired by the European Commission in a Communication on 26 May 2004, on the share of renewable energy in the EU -COM(2004) 366, which stated:

"It is important to ensure that the development of offshore wind is not stifled by a false assessment of potential problems, such as its coexistence with birds, trawling and shipping, the development and application of national planning rules, the source of funds to extend and upgrade the grid, the availability of insurance cover and the provision of legal protection against damage to structures outside states’ territorial waters. The Commission will systematically review the obstacles and objections that may block the development of offshore wind, the environmental requirements that need to be met and will develop guidelines for Member States, by offering proposals for legislation if necessary."

In the workshop the European Commission presented its recent initiatives and its potential implications for the deployment of offshore wind. Of interest for offshore wind was the designation of a European coordinator on grids for northern European offshore wind power plants, as indicated in the Priority Interconnection Plan. Participants generally supported this initiative and added that a general study on cross-border offshore grids was needed as a step to develop a common European offshore policy. Overall, participants welcomed the EU Energy Package, as it provides a good basis for the promotion of renewable energies in Europe, but stressed that the package is not specific enough to promote offshore wind power in Europe. Member States should feel encouraged to develop National Action Plans containing sectoral targets for renewable energies and measures to meet these targets.

Among other calls, the participants are also encouraging the Commission to consider a project to identify risks and barriers to the large scale development of offshore wind power in Europe. Participants are also urging Member States with sizeable coastlines to make use of their enormous resource of offshore wind power in order to achieve their respective sectoral targets for electricity.

They added: “The Commission should take note of work on these issues already undertaken by Member States, and should include industry players (project developers, turbine manufacturers and supply chain companies) in this project. The results of this project should be used to create a European Action Plan for offshore wind power in Europe, as proposed in the Copenhagen Strategy. This plan could include targets for capacity of offshore wind in 2020”.

EWEA believes an Offshore Action Plan is crucial to kick-start developments in this sector, as it would combine and give a coherent direction to the efforts that are currently being made by a number of key players.

An Action Plan for offshore wind power that also addresses offshore infrastructure would be a first important step towards radically improving European energy independence and, at the same time, lead the EU a big step closer to real competition in the Internal Electricity Market. This is an extraordinary chance to modify the way European electricity grids are constructed and managed towards indigenous clean energy. An integral part of such a policy should be a European high voltage ‘super-grid’ to bring large amounts of offshore wind power to European consumers. The fostering of real competition in the European electricity market should also form part of such a strategy.

Regarding the recent Wind Energy Technology Platform, participants acknowledged that there is an urgent need to increase funding to both short and long-term R&D in wind energy development at both national and European level. The overall goal is to:

- reduce costs through further technological development of onshore and offshore wind power;
- enable the integration of large-scale renewable electricity into European energy systems; and
- maintain European companies’ strong global market position in wind energy technology.

Cross-border collaboration, European coordination and greater interaction between public and private stakeholders are required to develop the necessary critical mass to meet the technological challenges. It is also vital to ensure that the funds applied are spent effectively in order to maximise research output for a given amount of funds. Offshore wind in Europe is at a crucial junction in its development. Early results from the first offshore wind projects have been promising, but it is clear that there are still barriers to further development. EU policy makers play a key role in working with industry to remove these hurdles, and the political process initiated in Egmond and developed in Copenhagen, then Berlin, has resulted in a way forward to tackle a number of challenges. EWEA is pleased with the Berlin workshop recommendations and expects these recommendations to feed the Energy Council debates on 8 June 2007.

In order to allow the great offshore wind resource to be exploited for the benefit of all European citizens, Europe needs a common, coherent and effective political framework and stable long-term vision. According to the recently published Renewable Energy Roadmap, wind could contribute 12% of EU electricity by 2020. One third of this would more than likely come from offshore installations. To make this happen, an Offshore Action Plan is needed to kick-start developments in this sector, as it will gather in a coherent direction all the efforts that are currently being made by a number of key players.

Offshore wind at a defining crossroads

2007 will be a crucial year for offshore wind, and this workshop has paved the way to concrete actions within the next twelve months. The next important date will be the energy council in June, where Ministers will hopefully ask the Commission to initiate an Offshore Action Plan.

In December this year, EWEA is organising in Berlin the first in a series of European Conferences dedicated to offshore wind energy. This first European conference follows the successful Copenhagen Offshore Wind event (COW05), which was organised at the end of 2005. These events will now take place every 2 years in a different European country with significant offshore potential.

The event in Berlin will bring together industry players, researchers and decision makers for three days of presentations and in depth discussion.

The call for abstracts for the conference is now open (Deadline: End of May 2007). See the later story in this Brussels Briefing for a list of topics and more information on how to submit your abstract.

We look forward to seeing you in Berlin http://www.eow2007.info/

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