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Strengthening Policy and Governance Capacity for Blue Energy in Central and Eastern Europe

Following the Russian invasion in Ukraine, Central and Eastern European countries are facing the energy policy trilemma of security of energy supply, the affordability of energy consumption and the acceleration of the EU decarbonisation objectives. Offshore wind could solve this trilemma because it could accelerate the deployment of renewable energy sources in the electricity sector without compromising the reliability of power supply or raising prices. Investments in offshore renewable could also enable the long-term decarbonisation policies of CEE governments as the littoral countries in the region have an enormous potential for offshore wind energy. Yet, this is not well reflected in the countries’ long-term strategic documents and regulatory frameworks that can undermine the process of unlocking the investment in the sector.

These were some of the key takeaways from the roundtable on Strengthening Policy and Governance Capacity for Blue Energy in Central and Eastern Europe in Sofia on 1 March 2023, which kicked-off the BLUECEE initiative supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action and coordinated by the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD). BLUECEE will aim at strengthening the policy and governance capacity for blue energy in the CEE region. Wind energy professionals, infrastructure, and environmental experts from 8 European countries joined the discussion.

During the roundtable, experts from the region presented the perspectives of the different countries for the development of the local offshore wind industry. Poland seems to be most advanced in terms of market development as it announced its plans for the first 3 GW offshore wind capacities to come online by 2027, another 2.9 GW by 2030 reaching a total of 11 GW in 2040. However, Poland needs to accelerate the building out of the support port and manufacturing infrastructure, which has been a bottleneck for the faster implementation of the projects.

Although Croatia benefits from a high share of renewables in its energy mix due to its significant domestic hydropower resources, the country has shown strong interest in developing also its offshore wind energy potential. The Global Wind Energy Council estimates the national capacity for marine wind power at 17 GW – 4 GW of bottom-fixed solutions and 13 GW of floating wind farms. Yet, it was stressed that there is a need for an integrated maritime spatial planning to enable future deployment.

The missing legal frameworks in Romania and Bulgaria present a significant barrier to the existing perspectives for the development of cross-border offshore wind energy areas that will contribute to the replacement of carbon-intensive generation facilities. Experts pointed out that the accelerated grid expansion in Romania would be the basis for the deployment of 15 GW of offshore wind capacities, a decisive step to the achievement of Romania’s climate neutrality goals. Meanwhile, in Bulgaria, a demonstration project, led by Petroceltik Bulgaria, for a cutting-edge technological solution in floating offshore wind turbine will test the feasibility and social acceptance of offshore wind energy among local maritime communities.

Policy-makers in the Black Sea region should also partner with Turkey and Ukraine, both assessed to have significant wind potential. The establishment of regional supply chains and offshore grid infrastructure would not only attract new investments and strengthen (energy) security in the Black Sea region but would offer significant support for Ukraine’s post-war recovery.

To accelerate offshore wind development across Europe, developers, grid operators and environmental organizations should form communities of practices, which will introduce nature-based solutions in the deployment of offshore wind farms. The key enabler of long-term climate policy will be indeed the collaboration between different stakeholders and the role of shared efforts for achieving energy transition targets.