Unlocking the energy potential of the North Sea

4th July 2017

News ArticleEuropeFinance & InvestmentMember CommitteesPolicy

A study published by the Netherlands member committee of the World Energy Council shows that the North Sea has a key role to play in unlocking value across all dimensions of the energy trilemma – reliability, affordability and sustainability.
An initial high-level assessment shows an untapped value of €103 billion across four value pools combined in the period of 2017 - 2050: optimal decommissioning; smart re-use of old oil and gas assets; the efficient deployment of wind energy at sea; as well as considering other maritime synergies such as shipping, fisheries or aqua farming.

The report launched in June at the North Sea conference, defines value as the effect of cooperation and synergy helping to save costs, and opening new markets, thereby creating new value where there previously was none.

As such, the North Sea presents concrete business opportunities for those willing to harness its potential. The North Sea has long been the energetic backbone of the economies of countries around it. Its oil and gas resources have allowed societies to thrive and economies to grow. However, faced with a new set of challenges and an unsustainable level of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the depletion of some resources, the North Sea has come to be described as a sea in decline.
Synergy effects from collaboration can reduce costs, open new markets and reduce CO2 emissions in the North Sea

The coming decades will see two parallel and important developments in the North Sea. Large investments will be needed to decommission old oil and gas assets, while at the same time renewable energy projects, the majority in offshore wind, will be developed in the North
These developments also interrelate with other activities in the North Sea, such as shipping, and affect the ecosystem of the sea. It is estimated that together the removal of old oil and gas platforms and infrastructure, as well as building new renewable energy assets will need a total investment of anywhere between of €390-690 billion in the coming decades. As some North Sea countries are yet to confirm additional plans for offshore wind, it is expected this number will continue to increase.
Importance of cooperation between government and market players

The government has a vital role to play in the transformation towards a sustainable energy system as it seeks to protect its citizens from external effects – air pollution and climate change. Without government intervention, excess GHG would be emitted. Examples of how governments can chose to intervene to limit pollution (external effects) are the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme and renewable energy subsidy schemes.
For offshore renewable energy, such as offshore wind, the recently signed Political Declaration on energy cooperation between the North Sea countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK and Sweden) provides a framework for cooperation across borders. It helps to limit disproportionate information and facilitates a joint discussion on the consequences of external effects.

The next step would be to convert this political commitment into practical actions that can drive change. This is particularly important for the development of international offshore electricity grids.

This increases the need for cooperation and coordination across borders and sectors. Timely action is vital, as the required investments have a long technical life time. Decisions made today, and in the coming 15 years, will be crucial for progress towards the 2050 CO2 reduction targets. The report sees a clear role for the North Sea in the current transformation of the world’s energy systems to a low carbon reality.
Important next steps for successful North Sea cooperation include:
  •  A shared vision for the energy transformation in the North Sea, and investment in researching synergies by government
  •  Market players sharing knowledge of business cases where international cooperation has been successful and financial benefits have been shared between companies
  •  Stakeholders urging the EU to provide funding for offshore projects within its Interregional North Sea Region Programme
  • Exploring opportunities for EU funding through the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF)
The report is published by World Energy Council The Netherlands in collaboration with project partners DNV-GL, EBN, ECN, PwC, Rabobank, Shell, TenneT and TNO and with contributions from the Council’s member committees in the UK, Germany, Belgium, Norway and Denmark.

To read the full report click here, for the press release click here.

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