NSEC, U.K. Renew Collaborations on Multi-Sea Offshore Wind Development


The U.K. has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) members and the European Commission to re-engage with the NSEC. The NSEC facilitates the coordinated development of offshore wind and offshore grids in the North Sea, the Irish Sea and the Celtic Sea. This MoU allows for engagement between the U.K. and NSEC, following the U.K.’s departure from NSEC when Brexit took effect three years ago. The MoU covers the time until June 30, 2026. The NSEC consists of nine countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

Europe is set on a rapid expansion of offshore wind, which is accelerating on the back of the war in Ukraine and REPowerEU, the EU’s energy policy response to it. To strengthen its energy security and ensure affordable electricity for European families and businesses, EU countries now want 110 GW of offshore wind by 2030. And the U.K. wants another 50 GW.

“Well done to the EU and U.K.,” says Giles Dickson, WindEurope’s CEO. “It makes absolute sense for both to collaborate on offshore wind. It’s great they’re going to do so with this MoU. It’ll help improve energy flows between countries in North West Europe, which is good for energy security across Europe. It’ll help pool investments in offshore infrastructure which will be good for energy bills. And it’s good for maritime spatial planning and biodiversity: the best approach to protecting marine life is the sea-basin wide approach.”

The last meeting of NSEC Energy Ministers in Dublin in September committed the nine NSEC countries (as they were at the time) to 76 GW of offshore wind between them by 2030 and 260 GW by 2050 – most of it in the North Sea. Today, more than 75% of Europe’s offshore wind turbines are located in the North Sea. New players such as Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Poland and the Baltic States are now entering the offshore wind game. But the North Sea will still host 80% of all installations over the next five years and will still make up 50% of Europe’s total offshore wind capacity by 2050.

“As the U.K.’s offshore wind fleet continues to expand rapidly in the North Sea, opportunities to work even closer with our European colleagues on sharing investments in infrastructure, building more interconnectors and protecting biodiversity will benefit everyone by enabling us to scale up on vital new deployment,” comments Dan McGrail, RenewableUK’s CEO. “This will enable us to boost energy security in the U.K. and across Europe at a time when we need to move away from expensive imported gas as fast as possible.”

“The North Sea is becoming a renewable energy powerhouse which is already reducing bills for consumers, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and attracting billions in private investment as we build up new industries and new supply chains,” adds McGrail. “This agreement means we can maximize co-ordination with our European partners to deliver these benefits even faster”.

More than 15% of Europe’s power is traded between countries. The U.K. traditionally imported electricity from its neighbors. Last year, it imported 9% of its electricity. Now it’s exporting, especially to France where nuclear outages have caused supply problems. Today, the U.K. has 8.4 GW of interconnector capacity. Another 7.5 GW received regulatory approval. More interconnector capacity is needed to reach the U.K.’s target of 18 GW by 2030.

In this context, hybrid offshore wind farms and energy islands will play a vital role in connecting wind turbines to more than one country. The European Union and national governments must urgently define a suitable legal framework for these projects. The North Sea is quickly moving towards an interconnected offshore wind grid. Offshore hybrid projects which serve as renewable power plants and interconnectors could make up one third of all offshore wind capacity by 2050. The U.K. has just closed its first call for applications for hybrid offshore wind pilot in October 2022. The Nautilus project connecting the U.K. to Belgium and the Eurolink project connecting the U.K. to the Netherlands are currently under initial project assessment by Ofgem, the U.K. energy regulator.

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