Ten European countries, including Norway, have agreed to develop an offshore electricity grid at the North Sea, in a bold move that promoters say will give Europe the possibility of tapping into an even bigger source of energy than the Middle East's oil capacity. Ministers from all the ten 'North Seas Countries' signed of a 'Memorandum of Understanding' on December 3 to develop an offshore electricity grid seen as a major step forward for a single European market for electricity.
Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway and Belgium will now work together according to a precise schedule, in order to coordinate investments that will be made for developing these interconnections. Regulators, ACER (Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators) and transmission system operators, represented by their association ENTSO-E (European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity) have expressed their support to this understanding.
Until now, EU member states had developed offshore wind farms separately, meaning that surplus energy produced is often wasted.
Christian Kjaer, Chief Executive Officer of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), said "the (agreement) is an indispensable step to create an offshore electricity grid, critical for developing a single European market for electricity."
A Steering Committee, a Program Board and three working groups were set up to cover issues such as 'grid configuration and integration,' 'market and regulatory issues' and 'planning and authorization procedures'. The working groups will involve industry, governments and the European Commission.
They will report twice a year to Paul Magnette, the Belgian minister for energy and initiator of the project, who described interconnections between European states as "indispensable for the industrial revolution to benefit innovation and employment."
Electricity provision is a service like many others that is not a part of the single market.
The capacity for the 150 Gigawatt of offshore wind power has now been planned by 2030. It is estimated at representing up to 16% of the EU's electricity consumption.
Beforehand, it was difficult to harness the potential for wind power in contributing to the EU's goal of sourcing 20% energy from renewables due to the problems of storing the energy generated.
The potential job creation capacity of this activity by 2020 — 2030 is of the order of 100 to 150,000. The capacity in matters of offshore wind energy in the North Sea region is enormous. It even surpasses the energy equivalent of petrol reserves in the Middle East. Initial estimations show that 150 GW will be set up by 2030. They shall produce 563 TWh, which will represent 16% of electricity consumption in Europe. By 2050, offshore grid could even be able to supply 46% of Europe's energy consumption. "Until now, each country developed its own offshore farms", says the European Presidency. "By signing this Memorandum of Understanding, the States bordering the North Seas send out a signal that the development of their national farms is carried on henceforth in the European spirit and that all means will be put to use to get the best results out of this endeavor in the most cost-effective way. With this Memorandum, the objective of 100% renewable energy by 2050 is no longer a dream."
Such a super grid will help unite Europe as one super country with a reliable power supply for all of its citizens.
But it remains to be seen who would pay for installing parts of the on shore system, a question which the memorandum does not answer. Indeed, the text only commits signatories to "take into account that (the grid) will require reinforcement of the onshore grid."
By. Andy Soos