The North Sea is already an offshore wind-power hotspot globally. The European Union is about to take further advantage of the bountiful breeze there in an effort to meet its climate goals and end its dependence on Russian oil and gas.
Denmark, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have committed to increasing their collective offshore wind capacity tenfold by 2050, providing the European Union with a whopping 150 gigawatts of capacity. The bloc currently has about 15 gigawatts of offshore wind in the energy mix, and the order of magnitude increase would be a major asset in the race to decarbonize.
If the countries are successful, they would have enough offshore wind capacity to power roughly 230 million European households. Europe currently has 195 million households. The added capacity is vital, though, given the race to electrify everything. As more EVs take the roads and other industries reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, the need for clean energy will only grow. In 2020, the European Commission put forth a strategy to increase the continent’s offshore wind capacity to 300 gigawatts by 2050, 50% of which would be met by the planned North Sea development.
The countries have also agreed to an interim target of installing 65 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, more than double the Biden administration’s stated goal for the U.S. of 30 gigawatts by the end of the decade. Also, the four countries had already planned for an “energy island” — basically a large energy production hub — but the new agreement includes plans for a second.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has added urgency to the clean energy transition in Europe, which relies heavily on imported fossil fuels. The announcement, presented by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the heads of all four countries at Wednesday’s North Sea Wind Summit, comes as the EU weighs a number of ways to reduce its dependence on Russian oil, including the possibility of banning imports. The EU's executive arm also proposed a nearly 300 billion euro ($315 billion) package — dubbed REPowerEU — on Wednesday. It includes 56 billion euros for energy efficiency and 86 billion euros for renewables.