NSWPH: From Project to Programme
‘Yes, it’s possible.’ That was the answer the North Sea Wind Power Hub-Consortium was hoping for this year, says Programme Manager Michiel Müller. After several critical studies and animated conversations with specialists, developers and stakeholders, the answer was clear. Yes, a network of hubs that connect far offshore wind farms to North Sea Countries’ energy markets is possible.
The next stage
The firm ‘yes’ formed the conclusion to the project’s broad assessment stage. Now that the green light has been given, it’s time for the next stage: from project to programme. ‘A programme this ambitious and widespread requires so much preparation that it has to be divided into smaller steps’, Michiel explains. ‘Instead of trying to develop a blueprint for the years to come, we take a programme approach to facilitate the energy transition, focusing on crucial questions like: what can we do to make the energy transition as smooth as possible? Which challenges do we foresee in the near future? What are the demands for the individual hubs? And how can we start getting everything in place to be able to realise the first hub in the early 2030s?’ The programme-oriented view offers the consortium the possibility to be more flexible: ‘Instead of working with fixed long-term goals, we can adjust our plans according to the different stages of the programme and the latest developments in the countries involved.’
In developing the NSWPH, TenneT Netherlands, TenneT Germany, Energinet (Denmark), and Gasunie (The Netherlands) join forces. In each of these North Sea countries, as well as in the UK, renewable energy is high on the agenda.
The Netherlands is currently working on offshore wind projects until 2030. The government is also exploring the possibility of facilitating more offshore wind capacity after this date and has preliminary discussions with stakeholders on spatial planning. Another crucial development was the Dutch-German climate summit, which took place on October 2. The two countries declared their ambition to work together more closely on sustainable energy – offshore wind farms being one of the more promising potential sources.
Next year, renewable energy will be high on the German agenda in general. Just before the climate summit, Germany already declared its commitment to raise its own target for offshore wind energy, from 15 to 20 GW in 2030. Starting from 1 January, Germany will be chairman of the North Seas Energy Cooperation, and from 1 July it will be chairing the European Commission as well.
As for Denmark, the government that was formed there last summer also declared its ambition to intensify the collaboration with neighbouring countries. The new Danish Climate law also stated that Denmark would start research on how an ‘energy island’ – of up to 10 GW – could help reach the target of carbon neutrality by 2050.
‘The ambitions for offshore wind energy are strong in all of the North Sea countries’, says Michiel. ‘In the UK, it was an important issue in the build-up to the General Elections. The Conservative Party and the Labour Party tried to outbid each other with their targets for wind energy sources: the Conservatives aim to raise the production to 40 GW, Labour aims for 52 GW – both of which would be strong improvements on the current production of 32 GW.’
In short, 2020 promises to be a pivotal year for the consortium and for everyone involved in offshore wind energy. In the longer run, the next steps the NSWPH decides to take, might very well improve the lives of every single one of us living in the North Sea countries.