Brussels in brief, WW200902
Offshore wind power to contribute to Europe’s economic recovery
In January the European Commission recognised offshore wind energy as a key technology in Europe’s attempt to stimulate the Union’s economies, earmarking €500mn in “smart investment” to specific offshore projects. All the chosen projects are in an advanced stage of development and could make a real contribution to the economic recovery.
“Committing EU funds to promote offshore wind energy represents wise long-term thinking,” said Christian Kjaer, EWEA Chief Executive. “Investing public money to help unlock the largest European indigenous energy resource during the current economic uncertainty is equally strategic.”
Kjaer noted that the first generation of North Sea offshore wind farms is already creating jobs, pumping increasing amounts of non-polluting electricity into European households and businesses, and helping reduce Europe’s dependence on costly and imported fuels.
But he added the Commission’s proposal to dedicate €500mn to help finance offshore wind should allow even larger volumes of wind-generated electricity to be integrated quickly into the existing grid, provide new R&D opportunities to make the power sector more efficient and less expensive, improve operations and maintenance and speed up market deployment.
Today’s economic recovery plan, agreed in principle by the European Council in December to deal with the continuing financial crisis, totalled €5bn. Of that, €3.5bn is for energy projects over the next two years, while the rest goes to bringing the internet to rural areas and supporting agricultural communities.
The €3.5bn dedicated for energy sees at least €1.75bn directed towards injecting the necessary resources into key strategic interconnections, covering both gas and electricity, and including the initiation of the first stage of a North Sea offshore grid. An additional €1.25bn goes to supporting five carbon capture and storage demonstration projects. The final €500mn is to help finance and develop the next generation of offshore wind farms.
Kjaer said making Europe’s interconnectors more efficient and improving the electrical grid will not just help speed up the development of offshore wind power. A more efficient internal electrical market, he added, will benefit consumers through cheaper prices. The 27 Member States and the European Parliament must now agree the details of the proposal.
“The wind industry is pleased that the Commission recognises offshore wind power as a strategic energy source that the EU needs to develop. Offshore wind energy was always going to be an exciting, productive and dependable power source, but this new money should now help the industry meet its ambitious potential sooner,” Kjaer said.
The wind industry alone is expected to contribute towards delivering 12-14% of EU electrical demand within 12 years, with more than one-quarter of that coming from offshore wind. By 2030, the contribution of offshore wind alone is expected to reach close to 15% of total EU electrical production.