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Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds This is Hannah Müller. She is a researcher at the Groningen Centre of Energy Law and has just finalised her PhD on offshore wind energy and the offshore grid. I’ve therefore, invited her to give this lecture together with me.

Skip to 0 minutes and 27 seconds We have already discussed that EU aims at achieving 20% renewable energy sources in 2020. Member states are free to choose a type of renewable energy sources they wish to promote. In practice it will depend on the geographic circumstances. However, for many member states wind energy is a promising technology for producing energy economically. Onshore wind is a known technology. So why are coastal states focusing on offshore wind energy? In many countries public opposition against onshore wind energy projects is increasing. The development of offshore wind energy is thus an important alternative for many coastal states to reach their renewable energy targets. One of the most important areas in the EU for developing offshore wind energy is the North Sea.

Skip to 1 minute and 18 seconds The UK, Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark are all developing offshore wind energy. However, the development of offshore wind energy is challenging, as it involves a new technology and an area outside the national territory. The production of electricity is more costly. and the onshore legislation does not automatically apply. For offshore wind energy it is important to note that the legal situation at sea is different. The area outside the territorial waters falls outside the legislative powers of coastal states. On the basis of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea of 1982, however, coastal states may establish an exclusive economic zone.

Skip to 2 minutes and 3 seconds In this zone the coastal states have the exclusive right to develop wind energy and to construct all necessary installations, such as wind turbines, producing electricity, and the cables bringing electricity to shore. Following this exclusive rights coastal states have the right to apply all necessary legislation. They can either extend national law to the EEZ or draft new legislation for the offshore. Whatever they choose, the legislation needs to take into account the other users of the sea, such as shipping, fishing, et cetera. When examining these legal frameworks we note that the legal approach of the coastal states developing offshore wind differs. Some have applied the onshore electricity act to the EEZ.

Skip to 2 minutes and 52 seconds And others mainly rely on renewable energy acts, and/or limit themselves to legislation governing the construction of infrastructure offshore. Whichever type of law they apply, it will usually involve some sort of permitting. How these permits are awarded also differs between coastal states. Some coastal states make use of a regime based on first come first served. And other apply a tendering procedure. The first regime requires a state to award a permit to anyone meeting the minimum requirements. The latter procedure provides a state with the possibility to compare applications and select the best party. Over time more and more coastal states have started to apply a tendering procedure.

Skip to 3 minutes and 42 seconds In order to use a tendering procedure, it is necessary to identify the object of tendering. This is usually a specific offshore area where the wind turbines can be constructed. These offshore areas should be suitable for developing offshore wind and not be used for other purposes, like oil and gas production, navigation, or fishery. The development of offshore wind can thus be facilitated by selecting suitable areas as this will limit procedures obstructing the construction of wind parks. Hannah, can it also impact the way in which the electricity produced is brought to shore? Indeed, selecting suitable wind energy areas may also have an impact on cable development.

Skip to 4 minutes and 29 seconds Initially most wind parks have been connected to shore via cables constructed and operated by the wind farm developer. These cables were then considered as part of the offshore installation. Most coastal states have now turned to aim at constructing only a few offshore transportation lines to which several wind parks can be connected. This is also called clustering. These cables are then constructed and developed by the companies appointed to operate the national transmission grid or by a third party. This trend is also influenced by the prior selection of offshore wind energy areas. Selecting offshore wind energy areas close to each other will enhance the possibility to construct some single offshore transmission lines.

Skip to 5 minutes and 18 seconds The use of shared offshore transmission lines requires a creation of offshore hubs. That is a place, or a platform, to which several wind parks can be connected in order to get access to the offshore grid. These offshore platforms constitute a rather new technology. Due to their size the construction can be challenging. Another problem relating to this development is the uncertainty regarding the investment schedules. The wind farm developer wants to have the grid in place when the park is ready. And vice versa the network operator does not want to wait for the wind parks to be ready, as this would delay the receipt of tariffs and income.

Skip to 6 minutes and 1 second National laws do have to provide for some compensation schemes in case one of the parties is confronted with delays and lack of income. The ambitions of the EU go beyond those of the member states. The ultimate goal is to develop a North Sea grid. The clustering of wind parks and the extended roles of the network operators offshore are important incentives for this. However, many obstacles remain. The challenges of adapting the grids to an increasing share of renewable energy sources will be the subject of the next lecture.

Offshore wind energy

This video concentrates on the role of renewables in the process of energy transition. The focus will be on offshore wind energy and the legal challenges involved.

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This video is from the free online course:

Solving the Energy Puzzle: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Energy Transition

University of Groningen