Second North Sea Summit starts today in Ostend: a solution for energy crisis or a recipe for disaster?

Weiler Wind Farm

The coalition of countries that want to turn the North Sea into a large green power plant through the construction of wind farms is expanding. Today, nine countries want to agree on this, at a summit in Ostend, at the invitation of the Belgian government.

In May last year, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) and minister of energy Tinne Van der Straeten (Green) still went to the Danish Esbjerg. Together with their colleagues from Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, they signed the’Esbjerg declaration’: an agreement to increase the capacity of wind turbines tenfold by 2050 and to turn the North Sea into a large green power plant.

The ambitions were not minuscule at the time: the intention was to increase the total capacity of the four countries ‘ offshore wind farms to 65 gigawatts (GW) by 2030 and to 150 GW by 2050, or the power consumption of 150 million families.

Today a second North Sea Summit takes place in Ostend. The four-nation coalition has since expanded to nine countries. France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway and Luxembourg. The latter, according to Prime Minister De Croo, is a “virtual North Zealand”.

That the summit continues in our country is no coincidence. Belgium is a pioneer in the construction of offshore wind turbines and has become a world leader in the construction of offshore wind farms. The maritime contractors DEME and Jan De Nul, for example, are global players in the construction of wind farms.

The ambition of the summit is not only to expand the capacity of offshore wind farms – the nine countries together aim for 134 GW in 2030 and more than 300 GW in 2050 – but above all to lead the concrete implementation in the right direction. “The speed of execution is the real commitment of the North Sea Summit,” said Prime Minister De Croo.

Specifically, it is planned to make agreements on the standardization of the wind farms. That should allow the parks to be built faster, according to the prime minister. There is also a need for agreements on procurement, interconnection and safety.

The latter topic is gaining in importance, emphasizes Minister of Justice and the North Sea Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD), pointing to the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline and the many data cables, power cables and pipelines in the North Sea. It is therefore the intention to reach agreements with the other North Sea countries on the security measures that will be taken.

The commitment to turn the North Sea into a large green power plant is well known: getting rid of fossil fuels – in particular from Russia – and ensuring security of supply and access to green and cheap energy.

“Renewable energy is the solution to both the energy and climate crisis,” recalls minister Van der Straeten.

Ostend can expect a great visit soon. The heads of government and energy ministers of the nine countries will descend on West Flanders, as Will European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. There is also an important industrial sector at the top, with several participating companies and network operators.