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10 States sign the North Seas Countries Offshore Grid Initiative

Dec 14, 2010 - Paul Magnette -

Friday, Dec 3, as a prelude to the Formal Council of European Energy Ministers, 10 States have signed a Memorandum of Understanding in order to proceed further with the development of offshore windfarms of the North Seas (North Sea, the Channel, Celtic Sea, Irish Sea) covering a surface area of about 760,000 km². This Memorandum is an important step in the boom of renewable energies, considering that the energy capacity from the European offshore is bigger than that from the oil capacity in the Middle East.

Creation of a network linking offshore windfarms of the North Sea
Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway and Belgium will now work together according to a precise schedule, in order to coordinate investments that will be made for developing these interconnections. Regulators, ACER (Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators) and transmission system operators, represented by their association ENTSO-E (European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity) have expressed their support to this understanding.

This agreement lays down that the 10 states will work in close collaboration in order to find solutions to the technical and administrative challenges that are encountered in connection with the planning of this energy transport network and its operation. The agreement defines a work schedule that precisely describes the actions to be undertaken. Three working groups that include governments, regulators, transmission system operators and the European Commission shall report twice a year to the Ministers of Energy. Minister Paul Magnette, the initiator of this project, was asked by his European counterparts to oversee the first year of work.

This coordinated approach between States, fully supported by the European Commission shall substantially improve our chances to attain the 3 x 20 objective of the European Union. In November, the European Commission presented its Energy Infrastructure Package whose aim is to contribute to energy supplies and regulation of the domestic market. “The offshore grid in the North Sea and its connection to northern and central Europe has been identified as one of the priorities in matters of electricity”, says the European Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger. “It is very encouraging to observe that today EU Member States and Norway are taking this significant step ahead by signing the Memorandum of Understanding”.

It is precisely this spirit that gave birth to the North Seas Offshore Grid Initiative. “Investments to improve interconnections between European states are indispensible for the industrial revolution to benefit innovation and employment”, said Paul Magnette who now presides over the Energy Council. The potential job creation capacity of this activity by 2020 – 2030 is of the order of 100 to 150,000. The capacity in matters of offshore wind energy in the North Sea region is enormous. It even surpasses the energy equivalent of petrol reserves in the Middle East. Initial estimations show that 150 GW will be set up by 2030. They shall produce 563 TWh, which will represent 16% of electricity consumption in Europe. By 2050, offshore grid could even be able to supply 46% of Europe’s energy consumption. “Until now, each country developed its own offshore farms”, says the European Presidency. “By signing this Memorandum of Understanding, the States bordering the North Seas send out a signal that the development of their national farms is carried on henceforth in the European spirit and that all means will be put to use to get the best results out of this endeavour in the most cost-effective way. With this Memorandum, the objective of 100% renewable energy by 2050 is no longer a dream.”