North Sea countries are concerned over critical infrastructure

Wind energy from the North Sea should make an important contribution to the European electricity supply in the future. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and representatives of other North Sea countries signed a declaration on Monday in Ostend, Belgium, accelerating the expansion of wind farms off the coast and thus transforming the North Sea into Europe’s green power plant.

“With the North Sea, we have the energy power plant almost at our doorstep, “said Chancellor Scholz – and urged haste:” get started.”The North Sea will become an important place for energy production in the foreseeable future,” he said.

In concrete terms, the nine states – in addition to Germany and Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg and Great Britain-want to build offshore wind turbines with a capacity of 120 gigawatts by 2030. By 2050, at least 300 gigawatts should be generated in the North Sea. This could provide 300 million households with energy, according to Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo. At the same time, the production of green hydrogen is being expanded.

“We as Europeans take our destiny into our own hands,” said host De Croo. The only way to make real progress in the transition to a green economy, he said, is for European countries to work together. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Ostend declaration”will give us the necessary backing to work towards climate neutrality”.

De Croo spoke of ambitious goals on Monday. Now, he said, it comes down to implementing these objectives. “This means that we need to standardize, that we need to work better together, that we need to synchronize supply chains.”He said that it is about making Europe independent in the field of energy and preserving industry.

Scholz also emphasized that there is still work to be done. “We have to get faster,” said the SPD politician. “We should not waste any more time on designating areas, on permits, on building power plants and networks.”Scholz pointed out that many laws in the EU and in Germany are being changed to stimulate the expansion of renewable energies. In addition, he said, it was helpful that the industry was also represented at the North Sea Summit, because decisions now also have to be made in the company headquarters.

Scholz emphasized that the expansion of the grid must proceed as quickly as the expansion of production. The industrial centers are often not located on the coast. “The energy pipelines are the lifelines of Europe. We have long ceased to produce energy only for ourselves, but also for our neighbors and vice versa,” he said.

Equally important is the safety of the infrastructure in the North Sea, De Croo stressed. Wind farms, cables on the seabed and pipelines are vulnerable to sabotage and espionage, he said. “We know that our critical infrastructure is under threat,” von der Leyen said. She referred to a joint EU-NATO working group on this, which has recently begun its work. Among other things, she is working on a stress test program.

The summit’s joint statement said: “We stress that energy security and the fight against climate change are crucial for Europe’s future.”According to the declaration, there is a need for more cooperation to ensure an affordable, safe and sustainable energy supply.

The expansion of offshore wind energy has been slow in Germany and the EU lately. Last year, the nine states produced about 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy, according to the Belgian government. About 8 gigawatts came from Germany, largely from the North Sea. France, Norway and Ireland, on the other hand, each produced significantly less than 1 gigawatt.

At the summit on the Belgian coast, the countries also set national targets. Germany had already announced that it wanted to get at least 30 gigawatts from offshore wind energy by 2030 and at least 70 gigawatts by 2045.

A statement by the ministers responsible for energy now states, among other things, that Germany wants to extract at least 66 gigawatts of offshore energy from the North Sea by 2045. Britain has a target of 50 gigawatts by 2030, Belgium 8 gigawatts by 2040. Luxembourg, which is not North Zealand, has pledged financial support for the planned projects.

Further declarations were adopted and projects initiated around the summit. Minister of Economic Affairs Robert Habeck (Greens) referred to an agreement with Denmark and the Netherlands “to make joint work of offshore wind farms with a capacity of 10 gigawatts”. Britain and the Netherlands, in turn, announced the construction of an “electricity highway” in the North Sea, which should be commissioned in early 2030. The “LionLink” line will then connect both countries to wind farms in the North Sea. And the EU and Norway have formally concluded an agreement to strengthen cooperation in areas such as renewable energy and environmental protection.