EC Wants More Offshore Wind to Help Replace Russian Energy

A $220 billion energy-transition package calls for faster offshore wind permitting and a more resilient renewables supply chain

offshore wind
EIA file image

Published May 18, 2022 6:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

The European Commission has released the details of a five-year, $220 billion plan to accelerate the green transition and move away from dependence on Russian fossil energy. The program, dubbed REPowerEU, is a response to the dual challenges of Russian aggression and climate change. 

Europe spends about $100 billion per year on Russian oil, gas and coal, and much of the revenue finds its way into the Kremlin's federal budget. Moscow's $300 million-per-day invasion is directly funded by oil and gas sales, giving the EU an urgent incentive to transition to other sources of energy. For as long as it supports Ukraine's defense and simultaneously sends fuel payments to Russia, Europe will be buying weapons for both sides of the war.

To end the bloc's dependence on Russian fuel, the EC calls for "deep transformation of industrial processes," through investment in electrification, hydrogen, or carbon storage. This requires increasing the share of renewable power generation by an additional five percentage points by 2030, raising the target to 45 percent from 40 percent. To get there, the EC wants to speed up installation of offshore wind farms, and it calls for site permitting processes - the industry's main impediment to rapid development - to be "drastically accelerated." 

Some of this green electricity would go towards powering 10 million tonnes of domestic renewable hydrogen capacity. This green fuel source would be supplemented by another 10 million tonnes of hydrogen imports. To accelerate the process, the EC wants to set aside $200 million for hydrogen R&D. 

The commission also proposes to boost energy-efficiency targets in the existing "Fit for 55" EU Green Deal, and to start now with a campaign encouraging consumers to reduce energy use. Until now, the idea of seeking to lower energy demand has been widely viewed as politically undesirable, as it requires asking voters to change their consumption patterns. 

The proposal also calls for reducing Europe's dependence on the global supply chain for renewables. This includes supporting domestic solar-cell manufacturing (currently dominated by China) and diversifying the sources of raw materials for green power equipment (also dominated by China). "What's the point of ending one dependency if you're going to be locked into another one even more dramatically?" said EC President Ursula von der Leyen in a statement.