EU and Germany push expansion of renewable offshore energy

Out-Law News | 01 Dec 2020 | 1:48 pm | 2 min. read

The European Commission has published plans that outline the contribution offshore renewable energy will make to its aim for the EU to be climate-neutral by 2050.

Separately, Germany has raised its targets for offshore wind energy generation.

The European Commission's strategy for offshore renewable energy estimates that Europe will need to have 300 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind generation and 40GW of other renewable generation in European waters by 2050; 60 GW and 1 GW of the respective capacity must already be installed by 2030. Other technologies discussed in the EU strategy, summarised as "ocean energy", include wave and tidal energy, floating photovoltaic systems and the use of algae to produce biofuels.

The strategy says that EU member states should better coordinate with each other when planning areas and networks for offshore energy. The strategy also calls for more EU support for offshore development and for the state aid framework to be reviewed and adapted where necessary. In addition, Europe-wide supply and value chains are to be expanded and research is to be promoted, in particular production capacities and port infrastructures are to be improved.

"The strategy reveals great hopes that the expansion of the offshore sector can progress beyond grid-connected offshore wind farms," said Christian Lütkehaus, an expert in large-scale energy projects at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law. "Particular importance will be attached to further development in the area of 'Power-to-X' and especially to hydrogen production and economy. After all, this is probably the only way to at least partially eliminate a key bottleneck for the expansion of offshore renewables, namely the much slower network expansion."

The EU Commission estimates that almost €800 billion will have to be invested in the large scale deployment of renewable offshore energy technologies by 2050, of which two thirds will be spent on financing the associated grid infrastructure, with one third earmarked for offshore electricity generation. To overcome the problem of inadequate offshore grids, offshore production of green hydrogen and its transport via hydrogen pipelines will also be promoted. In Germany, the legal framework for hydrogen production at sea has been adapted with the amendment of the Wind Energy at Sea Act (WindSeeG).

"In line with the EU's decision to prioritise the expansion and the use of offshore renewable energy, Germany is also introducing higher expansion targets for offshore wind energy with the amendment of the WindSeeG," said Alice Boldis, an expert on large-scale energy projects at Pinsent Masons. "This development shows the importance of the offshore sector for the realisation of Europe's decarbonisation targets and is also a very positive signal to the industry, particularly at a time when Germany is experiencing a 'dip in expansion' that will continue until 2025, 2026." 

The amendment to the WindSeeG was passed by the German Bundestag at the beginning of November. Instead of the original expansion target of 15 GW by 2030, the amendment to the WindSeeG now provides for 20 GW by 2030 and 40 GW by 2040. To ensure that the new target of 20 GW by 2030 is met, a total capacity of 9.2 GW must be tendered, awarded and realised through the annual tender rounds from 2021.