Sea of opportunities – offshore wind energy development potential in Baltic Sea

Oliwia Mróz-Malik
Department of Logistics, Institute of Management, University of Szczecin

Offshore Wind and Development Manager
Polish Wind Energy Association

Offshore wind energy is one of the most promising electricity generation technologies. Interest in exploiting its potential in the Baltic Sea is growing rapidly. The European Union is raising its climate targets for 2030 and is committed to becoming climate-neutral by 2050. In 2020, the European Commission published a new EU strategy on offshore renewable energy as part of the European Green Deal. The strategy aims to push for the necessary changes to have at least 60 GW of offshore wind and at least 1 GW of ocean energy capacity installed by 2030, with the aim of reaching 300 GW, 10 GW and 40 GW of installed capacity respectively by 2050. Offshore wind is seen as a technology that can help the European economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Investment in offshore wind projects can boost sustainable job creation and economic activity, thereby contributing to green recovery and long-term sustainable and inclusive growth.

The EU is already a world leader in offshore wind energy development, but the Baltic Sea potential is still unexploited (over 20 GW of offshore wind installed in European waters, of which around 2 GW are in the Baltic Sea). The Baltic Sea can make a significant contribution to achieving the EU ambitious goals with its enormous potential for offshore wind development estimated at up to 93 GW by 2050. To unlock this potential, decisive action by the individual countries of the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) and cooperation is required to ensure consistent, dynamic development of this technology and the competitiveness of the electricity market in BSR region.

WindEurope predicts that 9 GW of offshore wind energy could be easily deployed in the Baltic Sea by 2030. With intensified regional cooperation and determined, ambitious actions from BSR Governments, this could be as high as 14 GW. Offshore wind energy stimulates the economy – the industry already employs over 60,000 people all around Europe and this number is expected to increase significantly (around 10’000 new jobs annually in ambitious scenario in planning and construction phase and around 29’000 in O&M, indicated in study on Baltic offshore wind energy cooperation under BEMIP).

Nevertheless, we need strong regional cooperation to boost this potential. Working closely together we can achieve more than individually. We need joint initiatives, ambitious goals, and funding so that the opportunity is not missed. Regional cooperation should include marine spatial planning, grid development, funding, technical standards, and the permitting process. Cross-border cooperation becomes even more relevant in the Baltic Sea, where an interconnected market would help to overcome the issue of different power pricing zones with different patterns and technical standards.

Some steps have already been taken and BEMIP is a good example. BEMIP – the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan is a trans-European initiative led by the European Commission and the governments of the eight countries surrounding the Baltic Sea (Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland, and Sweden; Norway as an observer). The primary objective of the BEMIP initiative is to achieve an open and integrated regional electricity and gas market between EU countries in the Baltic Sea region. The BEMIP parties are working together to support the European Energy Security Strategy and to support the development of offshore wind energy in the Baltic Sea. Recently BEMIP adopted a new work programme in the Baltic Sea region dedicated to offshore wind. The programme confirms the commitment of BEMIP parties to coordinate on the development of the offshore grid and to cooperate in maritime spatial planning process focusing on offshore wind development.

Today we understand that the transformation of the energy sector towards non-carbon, green and innovative technologies is a necessity to reduce its negative impact on the environment. Given this, offshore wind energy is an opportunity and a chance to all BSR Countries. An opportunity that may bring measurable benefits not only in terms of achieving the EU climate and energy targets, but also from the perspective of a number of socio-economic advantages accompanying the development of this technology. Experience of countries such as Denmark or UK show that electricity generated in offshore wind farms may be cheaper than that generated in conventional power plants, but it can also significantly contribute to economic development. BSR Countries shall define clear climate and energy targets to exploit the added value that the sector brings.


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