The North Sea should play a crucial role in the energy transition facing North-West Europe. If governmental institutions and businesses work together closely, between € 100 billion and € 200 billion of value can be created for society from this transition from fossil- to renewable energy. This is revealed in the report ‘The North Sea opportunity’ which the World Energy Council Netherlands (WEC) published today. The report was presented to Christopher Jones, Deputy Director in the Energy Directorate-General of the European Commission in Brussels.

The call for clean energy in Europe is increasing. The North Sea is playing a crucial role in the search for efficient routes for the energy transition. Co-operation can achieve significant cost reductions for decommissioning oil and gas assets, constructing offshore wind farms and creating smart networks or combinations thereof. 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). These findings 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 preconditions for speeding up the process.

“The opportunities and diversity thereof in the North Sea are huge”, noted Jeroen van Hoof, the chair of WEC Netherlands. “The Energy Transformation in the North Sea creates new industries. We can benefit from huge economic advantages by installing large wind farms. Also, a co-ordinated removal and smart re-use of former oil and gas assets can generate new economic activities. The potential is significant.”

“The region around the North Sea is one of the most prosperous in the world and the North Sea has been and still is one of the sources of that wealth. The North Sea and its harbours make up the transport supply line for the entire continent of Europe. The fishing grounds are an important source of our protein needs, and oil- and gas production generates a significant contribution to our competitive position, public finances and foreign currency holdings”, says Jan-Willem Velthuijsen, main author of the report and chief economist of PwC Europe.

Several recommendations included in the report are currently being worked out in more detail together with officials in Brussels. For instance, various workflows have been initiated to align European legislation for offshore grids and platforms and to optimise the required cross-border maritime and spatial planning. Efforts are also being focused on the question of how the European subsidy and financing system can best support the realisation of these opportunities. Furthermore, the WEC Netherlands announced that it will carry out a subsequent study in the next six months into the onshore implications of these North Sea developments.

“Particularly at a time when President Trump announced the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, it’s encouraging to see a variety of viable opportunities offered by energy transition. In Europe, we must therefore continue to make every effort to seize these opportunities, both for ourselves and for future generations”, added van Hoof. On behalf of WEC Netherlands, its members DNVGL, ECN, EBN, PwC, Shell, Siemens, TNO, Rabobank and TenneT contributed to the report that was presented today. Click on this link to view the report.