More Offshore Wind to Put Paris Agreement Goals Within Reach

For Europe to contribute to limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C, as set out in the Paris Agreement, it will need a fully decarbonised electricity supply by 2045, something that could be significantly contributed by offshore wind. However, to achieve this, the offshore wind installation rate would have to double to some 7GW per year, according to Ecofys and Navigant. 

Illustration (Image source: Ecofys/ archive)

The North Seas countries will need to jointly achieve 230GW of offshore capacity by 2045 to fulfil the Paris Agreement requirements, according to Ecofys and Navigant who investigated the topic in two white papers. Michiel Müller, Managing Director at Ecofys, a Navigant company, presented the findings at the European Commission’s North Seas Energy Forum 2017, held on 23 March.

Such an upscale in offshore wind cannot be lifted through individual efforts, but only through a new level of collaboration, coordination, and interconnectivity between the North Seas countries.

The idea is not new, Ecofys stated, adding that already in 2009 the European Commission identified a North Sea offshore grid as one of six infrastructure priorities for the European Union. However, as the urgency to act increases, lacking clarity on the way forward has resulted in little progress so far.

These countries (France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Ireland and the United Kingdom) will have to join forces in an unprecedented way to get a project of this magnitude off the ground. From spatial planning, to market design and implementation, the task calls for a new way of thinking: Business cases have to be redefined to reflect societal and environmental profits.

Only an internationally coordinated approach will enable a secure new infrastructure with maximum benefit to the environment at cost-efficient levels, the researchers pointed out.

With higher shares of renewable energy, the stability of the grid heavily depends on an increase in flexibility options and a strong network to support this. According to the report, the share of dispatchable energy in the grid to go down from 95% today to 25% in 2045, and estimate the North Seas region will need up to 50-80GW of new interconnector capacity to balance the grid.

Before this demand for interconnectivity can be addressed on the technical level, it will be the collaborative connection between the involved countries and public and private stakeholders that counts, Ecofys and Navigant said.

Developing a long term spatial planning strategy and a robust 2045 roadmap for flexibility options will be two of the key steps. The energy experts recommend establishing a methodology to value grid stability to incentivise and accelerate the rollout of interconnectors. Joint strategic planning will secure operational security during and beyond the energy transition.