EU offshore renewable energy strategy

As part of its Green Deal ambition to become carbon-neutral by 2050, the EU has published its strategy on offshore renewable energy. Offshore renewable energy includes a variety of clean energy sources like wind, wave and tidal energy, which have the potential to become a cornerstone of the EU’s clean energy transition. It is a priority to invest in these technologies, and to develop the necessary infrastructure, regulatory framework, and research and innovation.

In the strategy, the Commission assesses the potential contribution of offshore renewable energy and proposes a way forward to develop it. The Commission’s objective is to increase the installed offshore wind capacity from 12 GW today to at least 60 GW in 2030, and possibly 300 GW by 2050. This will entail the use of a large number of new sites for offshore energy. It is estimated that this will require less than 3% of the European maritime space. The Commission recognises that this requires a sound coexistence between offshore installations and other uses of the sea space such as fishing and aquaculture, shipping, tourism, or infrastructure deployment. Therefore, public authorities must focus on maritime spatial planning, to prevent conflicts between different priorities and to create synergies between economic sectors.

While some technologies such as bottom-fixed turbines are already mature, others like floating wind energy are becoming increasingly attractive. In addition, the development of circular materials is one of the priorities of current research and innovation. Applying a circular economy approach to the life cycle of offshore installations is key to ensuring their sustainability. That is why the Commission aims at systematically integrating the principle of ‘circularity by design’ into renewables research and innovation. This would involve improving existing technologies and enhancing the recyclability of materials, something which is especially needed in the case of end-of-life wind turbine blades. This could benefit the recreational boating industry too given the commonalities of composite use.

In order to ensure coherent maritime spatial planning, the Commission will analyse the interactions between offshore renewable energy and other maritime activities, and will promote dialogue between public authorities, stakeholders and scientists. In addition, Member States must submit to the Commission their national maritime spatial plans by March 2021. The strategy also notes that areas with high potential for offshore energy pose risks of collision with vessels, something that must be addressed by Member States.

A key ingredient of adequate maritime spatial planning is multi-use projects, which allow for the coexistence of different activities, and which the Commission will support. On this issue, the PHAROS4MPAs Interreg project, of which EBI was a part of, is specifically mentioned. The project documented the way marine protected areas in the Mediterranean are affected by maritime activities, including offshore wind farms and leisure boating. Based on this, the project provides recommendations on how the environmental impacts of these economic activities can be prevented or minimised.

EBI contributed to the preparation of the strategy by providing input during the consultation period, focusing on the need for adequate marine space for recreational boating and common approaches to end-of-life issues. The full strategy can be found here.

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