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Paths to Faster Decarbonisation: Offshore Wind Energy Potential in the Three Seas Region

Offshore wind stands out as a viable alternative to fossil fuels. South East Europe has significant potential for offshore wind power generation. Harnessing it will help to reduce the region’s energy and climate security risks. The development of the sector requires a transparent and consistent regulatory framework to encourage investors to develop specific projects. Bulgarian MPs have tabled a Law on Renewable Energy in the Marine Areas, which will aim to attract strategic investors, creating a consistent and predictable regulatory framework. The draft law proposes two approaches for site development, CfD-based tenders for promising areas and integration of offshore wind deployment into the national Maritime Spatial Plan.

These are some of the main conclusions from a high-level policy roundtable on Paths to Faster Decarbonisation: Offshore Wind Energy Potential in the Three Seas Region, organised by the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) at the Bulgarian Pavilion during the UNCCC COP28 Conference in Dubai, the UAE. The panel discussion included Malgosia Bartosik, the deputy CEO of WindEurope, Nikolay Nikolov, Deputy Minister of Energy of Bulgaria, Alexandra Bocse, State Adviser on Climate and Sustainability at Presidential Administration of Romania, Alexandra Sdoukou, Deputy Minister of Environment and Energy of Greece, and Dimitar Zarchev, the Director of the Central Dispatching Unit of the Electricity System Operator of Bulgaria.

The roundtable explored the mechanisms to overcoming the technical and governance obstacles for unleashing the investment in the sector, and its role for accelerating the decarbonisation of the energy sector. The speakers focused not only on environmental and energy security benefits but also transformative economic prospects for coastal communities.

Ms. Bartosik highlighted the commitment SEE countries should express to implement the EU Offshore Wind Strategy and emphasized the benefits of forming regional cooperation groups to expedite investment projects. She invited the Bulgarian government to commit to the recently adopted Wind Energy Action Plan by signing the Wind Energy Charter, a voluntary initiative of the European Commission to commit to the acceleration of wind projects.

Despite the difficulties in developing the industry, Mr. Nikolov claimed that the offshore wind energy sector provides ample opportunities for strengthening local economies and accelerating the energy transition, and endorsed the legislative initiative of MPs to develop a special legal framework for offshore wind.

Ms. Bosce revealed that the Romanian Parliament also plans to pass an offshore wind law by the end of the year. She said that a recent assessment shows that the wind resource potential of the Romanian section of the Black Sea is 76 GW. Romania expects the first offshore wind projects to come online until 2030. A cross-border project between Romania and Bulgaria with the support of the Connecting Europe Facility is a viable option for the development of a common market.

The establishment of a resilient offshore wind industry creating high quality jobs for the local manufacturing sector is the strategy that the Greek government will follow, according to Ms. Sdoukou.

Mr. Zarchev insisted that the availability of available grid capacity is an important success factor for the deployment of offshore wind energy in the region. Based on the plans of the Bulgarian TSO to expand the network, he thinks the TSO would be able to integrate large-scale renewables to the power system.

All speakers united around the statement that in the past year offshore wind has gone high on the policy agenda of SEE countries, which sends a clear signal to the offshore wind industry that the region would emerge as an attractive renewable energy investment destination.