Ministers from the UK, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden and Ireland met on the sidelines of the recent Energy Council meeting in Brussels to sign a political declaration on the North Seas Countries Offshore Grid Initiative. The Initiative will examine the construction of an offshore wind energy grid, or “Supergrid”, in the North and Irish seas.
The agreement follows a report in September from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), which predicted that 10% of Europe's electricity needs could be met by offshore wind, but only if new developments are supported by an extended offshore energy grid. "EWEA's new offshore network plan will provide a truly pan-European electricity superhighway," EWEA chief executive, Christian Kjaer, said at the time. "This will bring affordable electricity to consumers, reduce import dependence, cut carbon dioxide emissions and allow Europe to access its largest domestic energy source – offshore wind."
Commenting on the agreement, Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan said: “This project is another example of European vision and ambition in energy policy. It makes economic, as well as environmental sense. By working together, all of the countries involved will reap the benefits.”
Minister Ryan also commended the Belgian Government for their leadership in developing the Initiative and said, “I look forward to working with my European counterparts, to proceed as quickly as possible with this exciting and ambitious plan.”
Ministers said the initial aim of the initiative was to develop a strategic work plan in early 2010 that would co-ordinate offshore infrastructure development. This plan would then be formally enshrined in a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed later next year.
Meanwhile, Justin Wilkes, EWEA’s Policy Director, said: “These nine countries have taken a step in the right direction. More than 100 GW of offshore wind projects are at various stages of planning, which could provide more than 10% of the EU’s electricity. A new multi-billion Euro European industry is emerging; one that will create thousands of jobs, provide affordable electricity, boost Europe’s energy security and help fight climate change.”
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