The Expansion of Offshore Wind Power in the North Sea: A Strategic Opportunity for the European Union Études de l'Ifri, July 2018
The North Sea is the cradle of the global offshore wind industry. The favourable wind patterns in the Southern part and the low depth of water have created an enabling environment for the construction of the first wind turbines in the world. Public policies have progressively encouraged their deployment in the best-endowed countries: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the United-Kingdom.
Over the past years, European industry players have acquired a significant know-how that they can value on the promising global offshore wind market. Yet, competition is still at an early stage and many non-European stakeholders have taken shares in projects in the North Sea, hoping to gain similar expertise before wandering to other shores. Support policies have recently moved to competitive tenders and, combined with a growing technological lead, they have contributed to a remarkable fall in prices announced for projects to be commissioned after 2018. Offshore wind represents a strategic opportunity for Europe but requires strong investment in grid infrastructures. While each national government is currently defining its own targets and support schemes, cross-border coordination is imperative to guarantee the integration of massive wind production at least cost. Undoubtedly, offshore wind in the North Sea is already a success story but it is now time to develop a broader and more strategic vision, looking at how to make the most out of this incredible potential and also derive lessons for the other European shores.