What exactly is the North Seas Energy Cooperation?

Like a good network engineer, the North Seas Energy Cooperation ensures that the cables are all in the right place. In addition, it not only helps save costs but also our climate. Let's get on board for a tour of the North Sea!

Illustration: Erneuerbare Energien unter einer Lupe© BMWi

This is what it's all about: more and more wind power generated offshore is reaching to the shores of the North Sea. An alliance of 10 countries seeking to use this power has formed – they want to work together on the construction of wind farms and offshore grids.

The North Sea is not all waves, wind and open sea. It is also characterised by its many offshore wind farms. In a time where onshore wind energy is facing ever growing problems, offshore wind can make an important contribution to meeting our climate change mitigation targets and bring about an environmentally-friendly, reliable and forward-looking energy supply. The European Commission has stated that 230 to 450 gigawatts in installed offshore wind capacity are needed in order to meet the union’s target of carbon neutrality. However, this target will be difficult to achieve without international networking.

Germany will play a key role in Europe's energy policy in 2020

This is where Germany comes in. When Germany takes over the presidency of the EU Council at the beginning of July this year, it will have a key role in shaping the EU's energy policy. One of its most important missions will be to pave the way for implementing the European Commission's Green Deal – a plan under which the EU seeks to achieve carbon neutrality.

This January, Germany took over the presidency of the North Seas Energy Cooperation from Denmark and wants to use the synergies opening up as a result. The North Seas Energy Cooperation is a cross-border cooperation project between ten European countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) and the European Commission to expand offshore wind energy and offshore grid infrastructure.

Tidying up cables in the North Sea

The countries seek to better coordinate the expansion of offshore wind energy across borders and link offshore wind power generation with the cross-border electricity trade. How can this be achieved? One option would be to connect new offshore wind farms to existing cross-national power lines, another, to link up different wind farms within a given country via an additional line, thus reducing the need for expensive additional cables. This would help bring some order into the cabling and reduce total costs. It would also mean improving utilisation of the cables and security of supply in the participating countries – which would be supplied with wind power even at times when there's no wind to turn the blades of their own turbines.

However, managing such a complex grid in the North Sea requires highly skilled 'network engineers', a joint funding framework for wind energy across the participating countries and a common set of grid connection rules – for example in cases where new wind farms are used by several countries.

This is why Germany intends to draw up a set of priorities for developing a regulatory framework for joint offshore wind projects at EU level during its presidency of the EU. Such a framework could, for example, set out rules for how the costs and profits of joint projects are to be distributed between the participating countries and how the planning of offshore wind farms and grid expansion could be better coordinated.

Using artificial islands as electricity transport hubs

Germany seeks to use its presidency of the EU to also develop and move forward joint offshore wind energy projects in the North Sea such as transmission system operator Tennet's North Sea Wind Power Hubs. This project seeks to create artificial islands on which up to 15,000 megawatts (MW) of wind capacity are to be installed. If these islands were to be connected to several countries, they could serve as hubs for importing and exporting wind power.