To reengage with the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC), the United Kingdom signed an MOU with NSEC members and the European Commission today. In the North Sea, the Irish Sea, and the Celtic Sea, the NSEC promotes the coordinated development of offshore wind and offshore grids. The MoU signed today enables collaboration between the UK and NSEC, three years after the UK left NSEC when Brexit took effect. The MOU is valid through 30 June 2026 and marks the beginning of a new period of UK-EU collaboration. The nine member states of the NSEC are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. The crisis in Ukraine and REPowerEU, the EU’s energy policy response to the conflict, are accelerating Europe’s deployment of offshore wind.
To increase its energy security and ensure that European families and companies have access to inexpensive electricity, EU members now want 110 GW of offshore wind by 2030. And the United Kingdom desires an additional 50 GW. They are and will continue to be Europe’s leader in offshore wind. EU and UK collaboration on the construction and connection of offshore wind farms is a no-brainer. Both sides recognize this and desire to work closely together. WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson stated, “Congratulations to the EU and UK. It makes perfect sense for both parties to work together on offshore wind energy. It’s fantastic that they will do so with this MOU. It will help increase energy flows between North West European nations, which is beneficial for Europe’s energy security. It will facilitate the pooling of investments in offshore infrastructure, which will benefit energy costs. And it’s ideal for maritime spatial planning and biodiversity: the sea-basin-wide strategy is the greatest way to safeguard marine life.”
The North Sea will continue to be Europe’s renewable energy hub. The latest conference of NSEC Energy Ministers, held in September in Dublin, committed the 9 NSEC countries (as they were at the time) to 76 GW of offshore wind by 2030 and 260 GW by 2050, with the majority of the offshore wind capacity to be located in the North Sea. More than seventy-five percent of Europe’s offshore wind turbines are currently placed in the North Sea. Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Poland, and the Baltic States have recently entered the offshore wind game. However, the North Sea will continue to host 80% of all installations over the next five years and 50% of Europe’s offshore wind capacity by 2050. CEO of RenewableUK Dan McGrail stated, “As the UK’s offshore wind fleet continues to rapidly expand in the North Sea, opportunities to work even more closely with our European colleagues on sharing infrastructure investments, building more interconnectors, and protecting biodiversity will benefit everyone by allowing us to scale up on vital new deployment.”
This will allow us to increase energy security in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe at a time when we must rapidly transition away from expensive imported gas. As we construct new businesses and supply chains, the North Sea is becoming a renewable energy powerhouse that is already cutting consumer costs, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, and drawing billions in private investment. This agreement allows us to maximize coordination with our European partners in order to offer these benefits even more quickly.” Over 15 percent of Europe’s power is exchanged between nations. Historically, the United Kingdom imported power from its neighbors. In 2012, nine percent of its electricity was imported. Now it exports, particularly to France where nuclear outages have produced supply issues. Currently, the United Kingdom has 8.4 GW of interconnector capacity. A further 7,5 GW was granted regulatory approval. To fulfill the UK’s 18 GW by 2030 ambition, additional interconnector capacity is required.
In this scenario, offshore hybrid wind farms and energy islands will play a crucial role in linking wind turbines to many nations. The European Union and national governments must create an appropriate legal framework for these projects as soon as possible. The North Sea is rapidly approaching an offshore wind grid that is interconnected. By 2050, offshore hybrid projects serving as renewable power plants and interconnectors might account for one-third of offshore wind capacity. The United Kingdom has just ended its first call for hybrid offshore wind pilot applications for October 2022. The Nautilus project connecting the United Kingdom to Belgium and the Eurolink project connecting the United Kingdom to the Netherlands are now being evaluated by Ofgem, the UK’s energy regulator. Hybrid offshore projects minimize the utilization of existing sea space. They are beneficial to marine biodiversity. And they facilitate effective international electricity transfers. However, investors will not invest in these projects unless risks, costs, and profits are shared equitably among developers, grid operators, and society. This includes compensation regulations for grid congestion.
President of National Grid Ventures, Cordi O’Hara, stated, “We enthusiastically welcome the UK’s re-engagement with NSEC, as we need all North West European nations to collaborate in order to exploit the entire clean energy potential of the North Sea.” Interconnectors have strengthened supply security across the United Kingdom and Europe in recent months, as they have done since the first link began functioning over four decades ago. Now, we look forward to collaborating with our partners to create the next generation of hybrid projects, which will assist to speed offshore wind while limiting the impact of infrastructure on coastal communities. But none of us can accomplish this on our own, so we must build upon the solid foundations we’ve developed to deliver an integrated offshore grid that maximizes benefits for European customers.” National Grid should also be permitted to joined the European Network of Electricity Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E). Only a coordinated, Europe-wide strategy to the development and operation of offshore wind grids can assure the proliferation of offshore wind at the lowest cost to society. The United Kingdom must participate in all negotiations regarding offshore grid development.