European leaders want to turn North Sea into a green powerhouse

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and political leaders from eight other European countries are to meet in the Belgian port of Ostend on Monday with the goal of increasing wind power production in the North Sea tenfold by 2050.

Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Britain, Ireland and Luxembourg want to increase capacities to 300 gigawatts (GW) by 2050, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said ahead of the meeting.

In 2022 wind farms in the North Sea had a capacity of roughly 30 GW, according to industry association WindEurope, with Germany contributing 8 GW.

The expansion of offshore wind energy in Germany and the EU has been slow in recent years. Germany updated its targets last year to an installed capacity of at least 30 GW by 2030 and at least 70 GW by 2045.

De Croo, who is hosting the summit, wants to focus discussions on how to swiftly build new wind farms to enhance energy security and fight climate change.

“The faster we build those farms, the faster we can reduce the emission of CO2,” De Croo said ahead of the summit.

De Croo wants to promote standardization of wind farms, coordinate tendering and build more interconnections to reach the targets.

Belgium also wants to discuss the protection of offshore plants.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is to attend the meeting, which comes less than a year after the first summit on energy generation in the North Sea was held in Esbjerg, Denmark.

More than 100 companies warned of supply chain bottlenecks in the rapid expansion of offshore wind energy in Europe, in a joint declaration published on Monday.

They argue Europe's wind industry is currently not large enough to meet the political commitments and call for public financial support "to kick-start" needed investments.

The political leaders are also due to meet industry representatives in Ostend on Monday.

The ambition to turn the steady winds typical for the region into renewable and affordable energy for millions of households is the right approach for Simone Tagliapietra, researcher at the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel.

As available land is a scarce resource on the densely populated continent, the North Sea has the potential to become a "renewable energy hub," Tagliapietra said.

Germany and Denmark are two global leaders in wind-turbine manufacturing, giving Europe a competitive advantage, Tagliapietra noted.

The researcher sees politicians under pressure to deliver, to attract needed investments from the private sector, as the required technology becomes available on a large scale in Europe.

It is now up to governments to invest in infrastructure like electricity grids, simplify and standardize legal requirements and issue permits faster, he added.

"I think that the targets in themselves are ambitious, but that's the kind of ambition we need in Europe if we are to get to net-zero," Tagliapietra said, referring to the EU's ambition to become climate neutral by 2050.

  •  European leaders
  •  North Sea
  •  Powerhouse


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