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Promotion of offshore wind energy
The development of renewable energy must contribute to the objectives of the new Energy Policy for Europe. Maritime wind energy is a relevant alternative in this respect, insofar as it represents a source of clean, indigenous and renewable energy.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 13 November 2008 – ‘Offshore Wind Energy: Action needed to deliver on the Energy Policy Objectives for 2020 and beyond’ [COM(2008) 768 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This Communication aims at promoting the development of maritime and offshore wind energy in the European Union.
Maritime wind energy can make a significant contribution to the three key objectives of the new Energy Policy, which are:
- reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
- the security of supply;
- improving the competitiveness of the Union.
Benefits of maritime wind energy
This type of energy has a number of benefits compared to the production of onshore wind energy:
- production units at sea are larger than on land;
- winds are stronger and more stable at sea than on land;
- wind farms at sea cause less concern among neighbouring citizens.
This type of wind farm can be beneficial for the protection of certain marine ecosystems and can also allow other new uses of the sea to be developed, especially offshore aquaculture, which can benefit from the substructures of wind farms.
This energy is also a vast, indigenous, clean and renewable source.
The potential of this type of energy
It appears entirely possible to envisage, by 2020, that its utilisation will be 30 to 40 times greater than the current installed capacity of offshore wind farms.
Other sources of energy production should also be developed on a large scale, such as tidal, wave, thermal or marine current energy.
It is therefore necessary to have a clear legislative and political framework in order to exploit this type of energy fully. It is possible, in this perspective, to develop synergies between the Energy Policy for Europe and the new Integrated Maritime Policy for the Union.
At European level, the existing framework has been supplemented by the third “internal energy market package” of October 2007 and by the “energy and climate” package presented in January 2008. The timely adoption and implementation of these two packages will form the EU’s main contribution to promoting offshore wind energy.
Obstacles to the development of maritime wind energy
The first obstacle to the development of maritime wind energy is the competition that it faces from the onshore wind energy sector and the oil and gas industry for financing, equipment and expertise. Businesses in the maritime wind energy sector encounter difficulties in financing the projects or technologies necessary for the development of this type of energy.
The second obstacle lies in the absence of electrical transmission systems at sea, and in Member States’ lack of experience with integrated spatial planning in the marine environment which may lead to the abandonment of certain projects. Moreover, the potential synergies between offshore projects and cross-border inter-connectors of regional electricity markets are currently not being exploited.
Third, not all of the protected areas in the marine environment have been designated yet.Consequently, it is difficult to define the boundaries of maritime wind farms. It is therefore crucial that Member States should designate the protected areas and exchange information on the environmental impact of wind farms.
Finally, offshore projects are bigger than onshore projects. The energy produced at sea, i.e. in an uninhabited area,will be difficult to distribute on land. It is therefore necessary to extend the interconnection capacity.
Offshore wind farms: the energy of the future
The development of maritime wind energy is a relevant alternative because it contributes to the implementation of clean energies.
Measures must be taken to enable the provision of the technologies and infrastructures necessary for the development of offshore wind farms. The European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET plan), adopted in 2008, constitutes the basic framework which will make it possible to meet the main technological challenges facing this sector by 2020. That plan identifies doubling the production of offshore wind farms as one of the key challenges for meeting the 2020 targets. This will make it possible to maintain the Union’s dominant position in the area of wind farm technology.
The Commission highlights maritime wind energy in its 2009 energy work programme and intends to support research in this field. It also encourages Member States to define the role of offshore wind farms clearly in their national plans envisaged in the context of the implementation of the new Directive concerning the promotion of renewable energy proposed by the Commission in January 2008.
The Commission undertakes to encourage transmission system operators and energy regulators to strengthen their cooperation in order to quickly put in place more favourable regulatory conditions encouraging investment in transnational offshore grids, cross-border trade and the development of efficient balancing power markets.
Another challenge lies in integrated spatial planning of the marine environment in order to reconcile the sectoral interests of environmental and species protection with the production of clean energy, and in this context the Commission will also seek to facilitate regional cooperation in the planning of the electricity grid and the planning of offshore wind farm sites.
Electricity from wind represents around 4% of the total production of electricity from clean energies in the EU. Nevertheless, its importance is tending to increase insofar as wind energy, together with natural gas, represents the fastest-growing generation technology and has reached rates of around 20% in some Member States.
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