The North Sea will play a crucial role in clean energy transition in the North-western region of Europe, as per a report published by World Energy Council Netherlands.

If public authorities and businesses work together closely, between € 100 billion and € 200 billion can be created for society in this transition from fossil fuels to green energy. This is revealed in the report ‘The North Sea opportunity’ of the World Energy Council Netherlands (WEC), which was presented today in Brussels to Christopher Jones, Deputy Director in the Energy Directorate-General of the European Commission.

The call for clean energy in Europe is increasing. The North Sea is playing a vital role in the search for efficient routes for the energy transition. Cooperation can achieve significant cost reductions for decommissioning oil and gas assets, constructing offshore wind farms and creating smart networks.

As a result, the social costs of the energy transition will fall. New commercial activity can also be generated by the development of new markets (e.g. for seaweed production, carbon storage and the production of hydrogen on former platforms).

That had already been confirmed at the WEC conference “Unlocking the energy potential of the North Sea”, which took place in early 2017. At this conference, approximately 180 experts from the North Sea countries jointly explored the most promising routes and the requirements for speeding up the process.  

“The opportunities and diversity in the North Sea are huge”, according to Jeroen van Hoof, chair of WEC Nederland. “The energy transformation in the North Sea creates new industries. We can benefit from huge economic advantages by installing large wind farms. However, a coordinated removal and smart reuse of former oil and gas assets can also generate new economic activities. The potential is gigantic.”  

“The region around the North Sea is one of the most prosperous in the world and the North Sea is still one of the sources of that wealth. The North Sea and the ports make up the transport supply line for the entire European hinterland. The fishing grounds are an important source of our protein and oil and gas production make a significant contribution to our competitive position, public finances and foreign currency holdings”, says Jan Willem Velthuijsen, main author of the report.  

Several recommendations included in the report are currently being worked out in greater detail together with officials in Brussels. For instance, various workflows have been initiated to coordinate European legislation for offshore grids and platforms and to optimise the required cross-border maritime planning.

Efforts are also being focused on the issue of how the European subsidy and financing system can actively contribute to these possibilities. Furthermore, the WEC will carry out a follow-up study in the next six months into the implications of these North Sea developments for the hinterland. 

"Particularly at a time when President Trump is announcing the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Climate Accord, it’s good to see the variety of opportunities offered by the energy transition. We in Europe must therefore continue to make every effort to seize these opportunities, both for ourselves and for future generations", says van Hoof. On behalf of WEC Nederland, members DNV GL, ECN, EBN, PwC, Shell, Siemens, TNO, Rabobank and TenneT contributed to the report that was presented today.