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EWEA outlines key EU actions for offshore wind development

05.08.2008

Responding to the European Commission’s public consultation on barriers to offshore wind energy, EWEA says that the creation of a central EU body for offshore wind in Europe is key to the sector’s development. It also suggests a series of further actions at EU level.

Offshore wind has enormous potential, yet it is currently hemmed in by barriers such as a lack of physical infrastructure, long project development times and short-term supply chain bottlenecks.

Earlier this year, the European Commission launched a public consultation to identify the key barriers to the large-scale uptake of offshore wind energy and help draw up an Action Plan, to be published later in 2008, that should lead to a European Framework for offshore wind power.

The consultation process, which explicitly called for answers to be limited to “additional actions to be taken at EU level”, came to an end on 20 June. In a paper published ten days later; EWEA sought to clarify and expand on the suggested additional actions.

In the paper EWEA addresses several existing areas of concern. Firstly, it tackles offshore wind and the potential conflicts it faces with other users of the sea such as oil and gas, which often enjoy ‘first-user advantages’ (being older technologies) and an infrastructure already in place. Defence systems such as radar sometimes seriously hamper offshore wind projects. The fishing and tourist communities can also perceive offshore wind farms as a threat and oppose plans. EWEA suggests the EU encourage and implement the use of marine spatial planning instruments, which offer a transparent decision-making process to sea users and allow site selection to be optimised.

Offshore planning is often complicated by the disparate regulation - or lack of it - at national level for sites that fall in national waters, and confusion as to the jurisdiction applicable within the 200 nautical miles (370 km) of a country’s coastline known as the ‘Economic Exclusive Zone’ (or ‘EEZ’). EWEA advises that Member States put in place a shared regulatory and legislative framework for their territorial waters and their EEZ. It suggests they demonstrate a more pro-active and positive attitude to offshore projects by defining ‘go-areas’ rather than ‘no-go areas’, and implementing good practices based on successful procedures from other countries or past projects.

Offshore wind is an emerging technology, and in order to develop its potential, offshore R&D calls must be prioritised at EU and national level. EWEA believes that tools such as the Strategic Energy Technology Plan, the European Wind Energy Technology Platform and the European Wind Initiative will be instrumental in this. Demonstration programmes must be developed, and centres of excellence created to further existing research. Furthermore, information on how to develop more reliable and easy-to-service components could be gleaned from the aerospace and automobile industries.

It is essential for EWEA that physical electricity is efficiently traded between different markets, leading to greater interconnection onshore and offshore between national transmission systems. Cross-border planning standards should be developed so that TSOs have an incentive to work together, building offshore grids with interconnectors. TSOs should also be able to recover their investment costs.

New actions needed
Alongside these responses to the actions suggested in the consultation, EWEA recommends new actions in its paper. Its top priority is the creation of an EU consultative coordinating body for offshore wind, in order to guide the development of offshore technology in a new, increasingly electricity-based Europe.

EWEA also calls for the EU to sharpen the focus on R&D funding, for example in order to extend the lifetime of wind turbines and so make them better value. It also says long-term political commitment is necessary at EU and national level to create predictable tariffs and to demonstrate that offshore wind projects are not high-risk, as well as to improve installation and maintenance vessels for turbines.

Another suggestion EWEA makes is to create an EU strategic grid infrastructure plan for offshore wind. This would entail fostering a Euro-grid that covers both offshore and onshore. Alongside this, grids should be planned regionally to share the burden of capital-intensive grid design.

EWEA would like to see EU guidelines be drawn up for streamlined consenting processes based on best practice procedure, so that public works have a minimal impact. The EU should also encourage cross-border cooperation on offshore wind issues, such as that of Denmark, Sweden and Germany. Cooperation should also be encouraged between ports to optimise the servicing of the marine environment.

If EWEA’s recommendations are put into effect in the upcoming Action Plan and potential future Framework for offshore wind, the existing barriers can be removed and 40 GW of offshore wind energy could be operating in the European Union by 2020, which would supply up to 4% of Europe's electricity. With the right framework, the industry will be able to deliver complex offshore projects with greater confidence and develop the techniques and technologies that will enable the sector to expand rapidly, as onshore wind power has done. The development of offshore wind power would be a major contribution to the 20% renewable energy binding target.

The European Commission’s Communication on EU action for offshore and coastal water wind energy (the ‘offshore Action Plan’) will be published within the second Strategic Energy Review in October 2008.

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