Article - European and International Energy Policy

The North Seas Energy Cooperation

Introduction

Wind turbines in the sea

© stock.adobe.com/Fokke

The North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) is a cross-border group currently comprising nine European states and the European Commission. Apart from Germany, its member states include Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The focus of the NSEC’s work is on the expansion of offshore wind energy and offshore grid infrastructure.

In 2020, Germany held the presidency of the NSEC.

Priorities of the German NSEC presidency

The rapid expansion of offshore wind energy plays a key role when it comes to attaining the EU’s ambitious goals in the field of renewable energy. In addition to offshore wind expansion at national level, the member states need to work together to harness the full potential of the technology.

Germany’s presidency in 2020 therefore focused on the promotion of joint and hybrid offshore wind projects.

Joint and hybrid offshore wind projects

‘Hybrid projects’ are offshore wind projects where offshore wind farms are linked through an interconnector to at least two member states. This enables not only the transport of electricity generated in wind farms, but also the mutual exchange of electricity.

Account should also be taken of joint projects that help member states with little potential for expansion or without coastal waters to participate in the pan-European expansion of offshore wind energy and to contribute to the related objectives by means of financial contributions.

The potential benefits of joint and hybrid projects

Joint and hybrid projects can have a positive impact not least on:

Grid connection lines, trade in electricity, costs, zoning, nature conservation, security of supply, access to funding, employment, public acceptance, and ultimately on the effort to reach national and European energy and climate targets wihle promoting industrial value creation in Europe.

Our specific targets

Key points for an ‘EU enabling framework’ for joint and hybrid offshore wind projects

The German presidency aimed to reduce barriers to joint and hybrid offshore wind projects and to develop key points for an EU enabling framework together with its cooperation partners.

In the context of an EU enabling framework, it would be possible to clarify aspects like

  • how to allocate the costs (e.g. grid connection costs, funding costs for renewables) and benefits (e.g. national contributions to the EU’s renewables targets, effects on electricity prices) of joint and hybrid projects among the participating member states,
  • how funding instruments at EU level can facilitate the realisation of joint and hybrid offshore wind projects, and
  • how to design the EU electricity market rules so that they can facilitate joint and hybrid offshore wind projects.

Specific joint and hybrid offshore wind projects

The German presidency also aimed to press ahead with the development of specific joint and hybrid projects involving several member states. Initial concepts for joint and hybrid offshore wind projects in the North Sea, e.g. the ‘North Sea Wind Power Hub’ (a joint project of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark), have already been drawn up. These projects are to be fleshed out further in the NSEC’s working groups, and possible barriers are to be discussed in connection with specific projects and ultimately removed.

Ministerial meeting of 6 July 2020

On 6 July 2020, the German presidency hosted a ministerial meeting that was chaired by Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier. The energy ministers of the North Seas countries and the European Commissioner for Energy adopted a Joint Statement (PDF, 609 KB) in which they agreed that existing barriers should be removed to facilitate the accelerated implementation of multinational hybrid offshore wind energy projects and of further relevant projects. They called upon the European Commission to develop an EU enabling framework including EU guidelines for the member states on the implementation of cross-border projects, adequate electricity market arrangements, and improved and efficient EU financing. In addition, the North Seas countries intend to better coordinate their maritime spatial and offshore grid planning for the deployment of offshore wind energy.

Ministerial meeting of 14 December 2020 and the new presidency

The discussions at the second ministerial meeting under Germany’s presidency were centred on the EU strategy on offshore renewable energy (in German) and the Commission’s follow-up initiatives for 2021. The EU strategy has already taken up many elements from the Joint Statement adopted by the North Seas energy ministers in July 2020 under the German presidency. For example, 2021 is to see a proposal by the European Commission for an EU enabling framework for cross-border offshore wind projects which will reduce the barriers currently in the way of cross-border projects. “Expectations are high for the realisation of the first hybrid projects. We are looking forward to a swift development of an EU enabling framework in order to send the right investment signals,” Federal Minister Peter Altmaier said at the meeting. According to the European Commission, the potential EU-wide capacity of offshore wind power by 2050 amounts to at least 300 GW, thus making a major contribution to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

At the same time, the ministerial meeting saw the chair of the North Seas Energy Cooperation being officially passed on to Belgium.

UK participation in the NSEC

Since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on 31 January 2020, the country has no longer participated in NSEC bodies. However, the cooperation agreement between the EU and the UK, which entered into force provisionally on 1 January 2021, provides for the establishment of a new, independent forum for collaboration between the NSEC and the UK. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy supports all efforts to make this forum ready to start its work soon.

Further information

Press release

  • 04/12/2019 - Press release - European and International Energy Policy

    Minister Altmaier: The energy transition is a modernisation strategy for Europe

    Open detail view
  • 06/07/2020 - Joint press release - Renewable Energy

    North Seas countries call for European enabling framework for offshore wind energy cooperation on the way to climate neutrality

    Open detail view

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