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A New Vision for an Integrated EU Maritime Policy


At the end of June 2007, the European Commission officially ended the consultation process regarding the future management of European seas and oceans. The Green Paper Towards a future Maritime Policy for the Union: A European vision for the oceans and the seas sought to answer to the following questions:

“Is it really possible to continue to manage and develop all different marine activities and frequently overlapping activities independently of one another? Or has not the time now come for Europe to invest in a truly integrated policy approach, if we are to succeed in creating a vibrant and sustainable maritime economy for the 21st century, and beyond?”

Background information
After more than a year in progress, the Commission consultation process has now drawn to a close. [see attached documents]. The unusually long period allotted to the process (usually it would be 3 to 4 months) was justified by the Commission by the complex and broad nature of the topics addressed in the Green Paper. At the heart of these was an examination of the different economic activities linked to or impacting on oceans and seas, as well as all related policies, in order to find the best way to extract more benefits from the oceans in a sustainable manner.

With nearly half of all Europeans living within 50 km from a shoreline and around 4% of the EU GDP coming from maritime industries and services, the outcome of the consultation will have significant widespread impact. In particular, various maritime industries (offshore oil and gas, the cruise industry, marine equipment, EU shipping and transport) who together generate billions of euros of turnover will be closely affected.

Enterprise and Industry, Mr. Barrot - Transport, Mr. Dimas - Environment, Mrs. Hübner - Regional Policy, Mr. Potocnik - Research and Mr. Pieblags - Energy. The process also benefited from the input of other Commissioners when the discussions dealt with subjects linked to their portfolios.

According to EC officials, the new Maritime Policy needs to erase old distinctions between necessary economic development and required protection of the environment. The overarching message is clear: the EU’s new system of seas and ocean management must be simpler than today’s, and ultimately one that reflects sustainable development priorities in the policies of the EU and Members States.

With an increasing number of offshore activities adding pressure on the unique and sensitive marine environment, the agenda set forth by the EC is inherently challenging. As recalled by EC President Barroso during his opening speech at the German Presidency conference in Bremen on May 2, “each maritime activity has been viewed through the prism of a separate and compartmentalised policy. What we are aiming to build now is a policy that takes simultaneous account of the huge variety of interests with a maritime dimension. It sounds obvious, but it is no easy feat. The potential for distinct policies to overlap, even to conflict, is strong.” Given the increasing need to manage often-competing Maritime interests, coupled with urgent climate and energy issues, this move towards a more sustainable ocean management is timely. As Barroso explained at the conclusion of his speech in Bremen,

“Just think how an integrated approach could support our energy policy. Developing sea-based energies is key to our future energy security, for offshore wind and other types of sea energy, the challenges include connection to the grid and insurance costs. Maritime policy can help provide a favourable frame-work, which in turn will promote huge employment opportunities in the coastal regions and beyond. Europeans are world leaders in these technologies, and we must ensure that our policies allow us to make the most of this.”

What the Green Paper means for the offshore wind sector
For the offshore wind sector, the Green Paper represents a clear opportunity to ensure that the decision-making process for projects be made more effective and efficient, and bring a greater certainty to the potential for future developments by way of informed guidance and early engagement. Regarding energy supply from the sea, it marks one of the first occasions that seas and oceans have been conceptualised not only in terms of oil and gas resources but also offshore based renewables. As pointed out in the Green Paper, “offshore wind energy, (…) if successfully exploited, could contribute a substantial supply of electricity in many coastal areas of Europe. This could further support economic development and sustainable job creation in these regions”.

It is now widely acknowledged that seas and oceans are a locus for substantial energy production, and as such strong interconnections between energy and maritime policies are clearly emerging today.

The recognition of the substantial contribution that offshore wind can make in the future energy mix is crucial at this time that the EU is embarking on a shift in its economy towards less reliance on carbon-based fuels. Commissioner Borg underlined this point in his opening speech at the Maritime Conference on May 2 2007: “we are all aware of the energy generation of offshore oil and gas and of the huge potential for carbon-free offshore renewables, including wind farms and wave energy. These are all opportunities that the Union should exploit as we seek to guarantee secure and stable supplies of energy for Europe.”

EU institutions today widely recognise that offshore wind energy can provide significant amounts of indigenous electricity. Today installed offshore wind generation represents nearly 700 MW, which is a mere 2% of the EU total wind capacity. Indeed the potential is vast: offshore power is not big now but it will be in the future. It has a great potential to contribute clean, indigenous large-scale energy to the European energy mix. The debate on the future EU Maritime Policy is coming at the right time in the framework of the current energy debate. EWEA sees the evolving Maritime Policy as a valuable opportunity for Europe to salvage its energy policy by putting greater emphasis on energy efficiency and large scale renewables.

At the end of May EWEA, on behalf of the wind industry sector in Europe, submitted its contribution to the debate. Within EWEA’s Response to the EC’s Green Paper we welcome the emphasis put on sustainable development for the future maritime economy of the EU. We are in agreement that there is an urgent need to balance the use of the sea with its conservation in order to develop a strong, competitive and sustainable maritime economy in harmony with the marine environment. We also welcome the opportunity offered by the consultation process to bring the fragmented EU marine policies together into a coherent whole. A coherent approach, particularly in terms of planning and gaining consent, will accelerate the development of offshore wind power. A coherent approach will also facilitate cooperation between Member States in sharing information on neighbouring potentially suitable areas.

The establishment of a long-term spatial planning tool to overcome potential impacts between different activities, as presented in the Green Paper, seems a sensible measure, but more detail need be given on the scope, tools and data required to implement it. The allocation of marine space for different and future possible uses is needed to help resolve conflicts, and to regulate the competing uses of the sea via a transparent decision-making process.

Clearly, the offshore wind sector has changed over the past five years and can no longer be regarded as ‘tomorrow’s potential’ but as a developing industry in its own right. In order to reach its full potential, however, this new sector needs a stable political framework, commitment and innovation, as was the case for the other energy technologies in the past.

A stable framework would ensure that sites will be available in the right place at the right time. Early results from the first offshore wind projects have been promising. However it is clear that there are still barriers that prevent its further development. The Copenhagen Strategy (see Brussels Briefing 05/11), which was adopted in October 2005, in conjunction with the Berlin declaration, adopted in February of this year, together represent a clear way forward to address a number of identified challenges in a timely manner.

In summation, if large scale offshore wind is to be fully realised, we need a European framework for the development of offshore wind power. The first step towards such a framework is the formulation of an action plan for offshore wind by the European Commission. This could then be followed by a European framework, most likely for offshore-based technologies such as wave, wind, and tidal.

Any future Maritime Policy should be consistent with climate and energy policy commitments as agreed to by the EU head of States in March 2007 . In this regard, the deployment of offshore wind power in the European seas is crucial if we are to meet 20% binding target by 2020 and 20% by 2020 CO2 reductions.

To determine the potential contribution of offshore wind power in the agreed target of 20% by 2020, EWEA has set up an internal working group which aims at developing scenarios on the future development of offshore wind power. This vision from the sector will be presented at the European Offshore Wind Conference in Berlin at the end of the year.

Following the success of 2005’s Copenhagen Offshore Wind event, the inaugural pan-European Offshore Wind Conference will take place this year in Berlin, Germany, from 4-6 December.

The conference will focus on both industry and policy issues, including the areas of technology, grids, project development, installation, operation and maintenance and necessary political support measures.

The growth of the offshore wind energy industry over the last few years and the enormous potential going forward has signaled the need for a cross-continental gathering of industry, policy and decision-making professionals. For further information regarding sponsorship opportunities, exhibitor participation and conference attendance, visit www.EOW2007.info

²European Council – Presidency conclusions (9 March 2007)


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