North Seas Countries Agree on Closer Energy Cooperation
North Seas region countries—Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden—agreed last week to further strengthen their energy cooperation.
The aim is to create good conditions for the development of offshore wind energy in order to ensure a sustainable, secure and affordable energy supply in the North Seas countries.
A political declaration and action plan signed today by nine ministers and the vice president for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič and by Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete, will also facilitate the building of missing electricity links, allow more trading of energy, and further integration of energy markets.
Reinforcing regional cooperation will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance security of supply in the region, according to the parties. These are key objectives of the EU initiative known as Energy Union.
“Today’s declaration is an important step towards an Energy Union that will deliver the climate commitments we made in Paris last year,” said Šefčovič. “Close regional cooperation and pooling together of energy sources will be essential to unlock the full potential of the North Sea resources at the lowest cost.”
“We now have a concrete action plan that will deliver results,” said Cañete. “This strategy will boost interconnection and renewables capacity, help fight climate change and bolster energy security, which are the central goals of the Energy Union.”
Energy cooperation between the countries will focus on several areas. Spatial planning will aim at optimizing the use of limited space in the intensively used North Sea. This will include data sharing, finding common approaches to environmental impacts, and the coordination of permitting procedures.
The electricity grid has to be developed so that it is able to accommodate large scale offshore wind energy. Markets should be well connected to allow electricity to flow when and where it is needed. The regional work in this field will include coordinated grid planning and development, but also exploring potential synergies with the offshore oil and gas sectors.
In the future, participating countries will share information about their individual offshore infrastructure needs. This will help plan the investments as well as align support schemes and mobilize investment capital for joint projects.
One aim of the agreement is to identify best practices and ways to harmonize technical rules and standards across the region. The cooperation also aims to reduce costs throughout the lifecycle of generation facilities. To achieve this, the participating countries will work towards mutual recognition of national standards.
European Commission studies have shown the potential for up to $5.8 billion worth of savings when taking a coordinated approach to offshore grid development. This is due to fewer and shorter cables being required to connect offshore wind installations to land. Gains could also be realized, according to a European Commission statement, by closer cooperation on environmental and marine management with respect to infrastructure development.