The Energy ministers of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway and the United Kingdom convened in Ostend, Belgium toward the end of April 2023. Recognising the strategic importance of the North Sea in the energy transition and that collaboration between these countries on areas such as infrastructure and production of renewable energy sources will be instrumental in accelerating the energy transition, the Energy ministers signed the Ostend Declaration (the "Declaration") to solidify their joint ambitions.
This new Declaration builds on (and replaces) the Esbjerg Declaration on the North Sea as a Green Power Plant of Europe from 18 May 2022, and sees France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway and the United Kingdom as new joiners.
The main ambition of the Declaration is to ensure that the participating countries' energy system is resilient, secure, competitive and sustainable. It also seeks to establish a more integrated and interconnected European energy market. Whilst major renewable energy power generation assets are envisioned to be developed at national level, the Declaration calls for more cooperation between the participating countries where energy transportation and storage are concerned in order to better manage energy systems and resources. The Declaration further outlines increased investment in research and innovation in order to drive technological advances that will reduce emissions while increasing efficiency, whilst remaining focused on preserving marine ecosystems and biodiversity.
In essence, the Declaration further cements the North Sea as an area of huge potential for the production, transmission and even storage of energy. With the focus shifting from energy resources below sea level to resources located at sea level, in the years to come the North Sea will see numerous activity in the areas of (floating) offshore wind, floating solar, offshore hydrogen production, interconnectors and carbon capture and storage.
The Declaration provides a helpful summary of Dutch North Sea initiatives with neighbouring countries, some of which have already been announced in an earlier stage. These are:
- Together with Belgium, Denmark and Germany, the development of the first interconnected system of energy hubs to achieve an increasingly meshed offshore grid. Among these plans, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands intend to connect offshore wind farms that are in relative close proximity to one another, including through construction of new interconnectors. This expert paper of April 2023 provides more detail into the plans as announced by the participating countries' TSOs. Further to the expert paper, these four countries signed a separate declaration of intent in addition to the wider Ostend Declaration. The Dutch TSO Tennet also recently announced its plans to develop the Dutch offshore grid.
- Together with the United Kingdom, the development of a new multi-purpose interconnector, called LionLink, which will connect the two countries via a Dutch offshore wind farm as announced by both.
- Together with Belgium, the feasibility of an offshore hybrid interconnector.
- The development and construction of an offshore hydrogen electrolyser north of the provinces of Friesland and Groningen, possibly with connections to neighbouring countries as well.
The Declaration is another landmark in the allocation of the North Sea as an area of key importance to northern Europe's energy transition. It outlines the various (cross-country) projects that are in development or already underway and how these ought to fit within the wider European regulatory framework, in particular with respect to identification of important projects of common European interest (IPCEI). The Netherlands is a key participating state and is at the forefront of developments and projects in the area. The Declaration can be seen as a natural extension of the Dutch government's plans, which we reported on earlier.
If you’d like to discuss your plans for the North Sea or like to know more about what lies ahead, please do reach out to us.