According to the new energy policy proposed by the European Union, 20 percent of the energy supply will have to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. A substantial amount should be provided by offshore wind power, which represents a huge potential for green energy generation, as the seas in the North of Europe are likely to provide considerable amounts of wind.
Wind energy is already having a profound and positive effect in Europe, as 40 percent of all new electricity generation capacity added to the grid in 2007 came from wind power, most especially from onshore wind parks.
According to the European Union’s Second Strategic Energy Review, wind energy should even account for more than one third of green electricity by 2020, and for more than 40 percent by 2030. Aside from that, wind energy will help the European Union reach specific targets it has set for itself, such as decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring the security of supply, and improving the European ‘s economic and energy competitiveness.
However, many challenges remain in the settlement of offshore wind power, which are putting the brakes on the race against global warming.
One of the most important barriers is the lack of strategic planning and cross-border coordination among Member States. Structures of governance between Members States are still inadequate, and uncertainties remain concerning the points of access to the grids – which are often absent. The need for an integrated grid, which would connect all the actors and the supplies of power from wind energy that they can potentially contribute, is thus a critical question that must be solved urgently.
Another challenge lies in the funding mechanism. Within its Seventh Framework Program (FP7), the European Union has agreed to allocate some €787 million during the 2007-2013 period to the development of wind power utilities.
“But the transmission system operators (TSOs) must put in place more favourable regulatory conditions for investments in trans-national offshore grids,” says the European Commission in its paper on Offshore Wind Energy.
In any case, the European Union, the Member States, and the different companies must find ways to coordinate the projects and to raise the necessary funds.
“To avoid irreversible climate change we need a major decarbonisation of the world’s energy system. Electricity is a clean energy carrier. Governments can not let an insufficient grid system be the barrier,” Ane Brunvoll, an energy adviser with the Bellona Foundation in Oslo, said.
“Upgrades and enhancements of grid systems must start immediately with a special focus on the needs of the renewable energy producers,” she said.
Edwige Jamotte of Bellona Europa wrote this report.