To meet its decarbonisation targets, Europe will need to install as much offshore wind capacity each year from 2030 to 2050 as it has built in the last 20 years.
That’s the forecast from Ulrik Stridbæk, vice-president of regulatory affairs at Danish energy giant Ørsted, who highlighted the still-untapped potential of offshore wind in Europe, writes Kelvin Ross.
Speaking today (Wednesday March 24) in an Enlit Europe webcast titled ‘Scaling up renewables for smart electrification and carbon neutrality’, Stridbæk was buoyed “by the way in which policymakers have seen what renewable energy can do and have started to come out with statements and commitments about full decarbonisation by 2050 in a way that allows us to believe and invest”.
He said the role that offshore wind will have to play in full decarbonisation is pivotal and would involve an installed capacity of something in the range of 450GW: “That’s a massive, massive increase from that which is installed today [around 25GW] and it has to happen in 30 years, so we have to be able to scale up the industry.”
And while he stressed that this scale up was possible, he warned that there were already hurdles in the way. “We are starting to see the struggle of getting the sites. There has to be maritime special planning and environmental dialogue into who gets into those sea sites – and this needs to happen so it does not hinder decarbonisation… because we need offshore wind.”
When it comes to what offshore wind is to be used for, he said: “A good 25% of it will be used for power-to-X, green fuels and hydrogen. That will be a major driver.”
And to do that successfully, Stridbæk sees “a perfect match between very large scale offshore wind and very large scale hydrogen manufacturing”.
“Getting all this right will certainly require a new level of intelligence around transmission grids: just by locating large scale electrolysers intelligently in the offshore transmission grid at the landing points will realise massive savings.”
He said he was encouraged by “very bold decisions from Denmark and the Netherlands on energy islands in the North and Baltic Seas and that are designed to create that level of intelligence”.
“If those islands could also host some hydrogen production, there will have to be connections to shore and those connections will have to be not only to one market, but multiple markets at a time. So we are looking to offshore wind being a massive driver of hydrogen manufacturing and being connected to multiple markets.”
He said this, of course, would mean that “the transmission grids will have to increase to a completely new level”.
“Infrastructure has traditionally been built out when it is needed – and it’s always slightly too late and slightly too little. And that’s not going to work for the next 30 years.”
And he also had an important distinction: “We must remember: we are not solving the problem of balancing electricity demand as we know it today with reliable renewable energy – we are going to solve balancing the electricity demand of tomorrow with reliable renewable energy.”
This, he said, was “a whole new avenue opening and bringing renewable energy into a new context”.
“As an investor, this is an eye-opening experience unfolding in front of us.”
However, he concluded: “Creating the clarity and sticking to the political guns of being decisive will be absolutely key – there is not much time until 2050.”