European ministers sign pact for offshore super grid

Ten ministers from all the ‘North Seas countries’ have signed an agreement to develop an offshore electricity grid. The Memorandum of Understanding signed by ministers and the European Commission in […]

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By Kelvin Ross

Ten ministers from all the ‘North Seas countries’ have signed an agreement to develop an offshore electricity grid.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed by ministers and the European Commission in Brussels, is the starting point to create a new offshore grid and to tear down unnecessary and costly barriers to electricity trade between EU Member States.

The 10 countries involved are Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, France, the UK, Ireland, Norway and Belgium. They have agreed to co-operate on identifying and eliminating barriers to cross-border electricity trade and to simplify complex and lengthy authorisation procedures, which currently hinder the planning and construction of a transnational offshore grid.

“The offshore grid in the North Sea and its connection to northern and central Europe has been identified as one of the priorities in matters of electricity”, said the European Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger. “It is very encouraging to observe that EU Member States and Norway are taking this significant step ahead by signing the Memorandum of Understanding”.

President of the European Energy Council Paul Magnette said the potential boost to wind power of a super grid was “enormous… it even surpasses the energy equivalent of petrol reserves in the Middle East”.

He said: “Until now, each country developed its own offshore farms. By signing this Memorandum of Understanding, the states bordering the North Seas send out a signal that the development of their national farms is carried on henceforth in the European spirit and that all means will be put to use to get the best results out of this endeavour in the most cost-effective way. With this memorandum, the objective of 100% renewable energy by 2050 is no longer a dream.”

Chief executive of the European Wind Energy Association Christian Kjaer said: “The European Commission has highlighted that 140GW of offshore wind power capacity is currently being planned.

“For Europe’s wind energy industry, the memorandum is an indispensable step to create an offshore electricity grid, critical for developing a single European market for electricity and for allowing offshore wind farms to plug into that grid.”

RenewableUK, the renewable energy trade association, has welcomed the European pact. Its director of policy Gordon Edge said: “Large scale interconnection with our European neighbours is vital if we are to connect up our massive offshore wind potential and integrateit into European markets.”

He said the EU agreement was “a vital first step forward in agreeing the rules of the game without which investment cannot happen”.

Dr Edge added: “We are delighted that the UK government is signatory to this Memorandum and we would urge them to stick to the timetable of delivery.”