At a summit in Ostend, Belgium, on Monday, leaders of the European nations bordering the North Sea are expected to commit to boosting renewable energy production in the area to improve energy security.
Seven nations from the European Union—including France, Germany, and the Netherlands—along with Norway and the United Kingdom—will make commitments to quickly construct wind farms, create “energy islands”—connected offshore renewable generation sites—and work on carbon capture and renewable hydrogen projects in the area.
The aim is to curb reliance on Russian gas, and reduce use of CO2-emitting fossil fuels, which remain dominant. Norway last year became Europe’s biggest gas supplier, after Russia cut deliveries to Europe following its invasion of Ukraine.
A draft of the leaders’ summit declaration, seen by Reuters, said the nine countries aimed for a combined 120 gigawatts (GW) of North Sea offshore wind capacity by 2030, and 300GW by 2050, more than quadrupling the current 25GW.
Belgium, Denmark, Ireland and Luxembourg are also set to sign the pledge, while clusters of countries will announce projects to spur the green energy push, which will require bigger investments than countries and companies have planned.
The Netherlands and Britain said on Monday they plan to build Europe’s biggest cross-border electricity link connected to an offshore wind farm.
European companies, however, including Orsted and Equinor, said on Monday their sector was too small to support the infrastructure expansion, and increased policy support and funding would be needed to deliver the targets.
Final investment decisions in European offshore wind farms hit a ten-year low in 2022 as developers faced record-high inflation, soaring interest rates and volatile energy markets.
Investment has recovered since, but in future years, European spending required for wind generation is likely to be below target, Wood Mackenzie analysts told Reuters, which would raise the risk of increased reliance on imported parts from China and elsewhere.
The EU and Norway also pledged on Monday to develop infrastructure to capture and store CO2 from industrial emissions in depleted North Sea gas fields.