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Homepage4 POWER ? Making offshore wind energy a reality

4 POWER – Making offshore wind energy a reality

The INTERREG IVC project 4 POWER brought together representatives from 11 European regions to an intensive experience exchange session on the development of the offshore wind energy (OSW) on 30-31 May. The project partners also took the advantage of the meeting location in the Rostock town and visited the first German commercial offshore wind park in the Baltic Sea.

Different regions, common interests

The project partnership is rich. It brings together players that are leaders in the exploitation of offshore wind energy from Rostock and Emden in Germany, Dundee in the UK and also involves the less advanced regions in the field as Groningen in Netherlands and Rimini in Italy and regions that are still in the stage of orientation like Azores in Portugal Malta, Corfu in Greece and Latvia.

4 POWER kick-off meeting photoIn Germany 36 wind farms have been licensed so far. There are 26 projects in the North Sea and 3 in the Baltic Sea making an important contribution to the electricity system reliability. This growing sector ensured not only 8,600 jobs in the offshore sector in 2011 as Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety reports in 2012, but also provides vast opportunities for maritime industries (e.g. 1 billion Euro investments along the German coast in offshore port infrastructure, production facilities (offshore turbines/components), construction vessels, etc.). Mr Chris Ashe, Director of the Sustainable Industries Institute of Dundee College, presented the ambitions and plans of the UK. It is intended to site 6,000 turbines off the UK coast, planning an investment of 100 billion pounds over the next 10 years. The sector presents a potential for up to 70,000 jobs in the UK by 2020, which is a new opportunity for coastal regions.

Yet the way towards the full use of the potential presented by the sector is far from smooth. There are still many hurdles to overcome at the local and regional level. The challenges differ from region to region. The experienced regions mentioned obstacles such as regulatory and financial issues, grid connections involving possible conflicts with land owners, a lack of manufacturing and a shortage of technical staff, infrastructure and logistics. Several partners also mentioned conflicting sectoral interests (e.g. fishery, navigation, defense and marine archeology, tourism industry). Partners also named challenges related to the ecological sensitivity of the concerned territories. This is especially challenging for Azores that bares obligations linked to the preservation of their unique biodiversity.

4 POWER kick-off meeting photoThe project activities will now help to continue to create a common understanding of current and future regional challenges in offshore wind energy development, organising regional consultation rounds, good practice (in the context of the INTERREG IVC programme, a good practice is defined as an initiative (e.g. methodologies, projects, processes, techniques) undertaken in one ...) collection and exchange, preparing a comparative analysis, thematic guidelines and translating the acquired results into strategies (local/regional strategies, project implementation plans and an EU offshore wind regional charter). As expressed by project partners, 4 POWER should provide the necessary conditions to make offshore wind energy a reality.

Joining efforts to make a difference

The renewable energy sector is one of the economic sectors that continue to grow strongly. Renewables represented a half of the newly installed electric capacity worldwide in 2010, and they are becoming increasingly important in the heating and transport sectors.

According to the findings reflected in the REN21 Renewables Global Status Report 2011 in 2009 renewable sources produced about 19.9% of the EU total electricity consumption, with wind energy contributing 4.2%. Several countries met higher shares of their electricity demand with wind powers in 2010, including Denmark (22%), Portugal (21%), Spain (15.4%) and Ireland (10.1%). Germany met 11% of its total final energy consumption with renewable sources, where wind power accounted for nearly 36% of renewable energy generation.

However, there is still a long and challenging road ahead before the Member States will reach the defined EU targets. Without questions the regions and local governments play an important role in this process.  7 INTERREG IVC partnerships have selected this as their main focus area. This group of projects is rather diverse. Our three projects deal with specific technological issues such as offshore wind energy (4 POWER); geothermal energy (GEO.POWER) and bioenergy (BIO-EN-AREA). The remaining four projects are dealing with more general issues such as the development of renewable energy in municipalities with less than 25,000 inhabitants (RETS), access to financial instruments (Regions4GreenGrowth), or strengthening of the renewable sector (RENREN and MORE4NRG). These topics represent a high potential for the programme capitalisation.

In order to obtain additional results and lessons learnt for the benefit of local and regional authorities in Europe, INTERREG IVC has launched its Thematic Capitalisation Initiative. Renewable energy is one of the 12 thematic groups linking 6 and more projects each. The aim of this exercise is to better exploit the knowledge resulting from projects working on a similar topic for the benefit of local and regional authorities in Europe. It is an approach that focuses on collecting, analysing and disseminating the thematic knowledge of projects working on the same topic. The results will be summarised in a final thematic publication in spring 2013.