North Sea nations work towards Infrastructure Security Pact Ship’s crew

By John Ainger and Michael Nienaber (Bloomberg) – North Sea states’ security advisers agreed to work out a pact to jointly protect critical undersea gas pipelines and power cables, telecommunications links and wind farms.

Several nations attending the North Sea Summit in Belgium on Monday will be working on an agreement that will allow the use of drones to monitor key locations, according to a Bloomberg News document. It is planned to set up a cross-border platform for the exchange of information in the event of security incidents and to enable assistance in the sovereign waters of the member countries.

Since the Nord Stream attacks in September, NATO members have increased surveillance of the North and Baltic Seas using satellites, aircraft, ships and submarines. The alliance has yet to publicly identify who carried out the pipeline blasts, but fears have grown that Europe’s underwater infrastructure could face a covert attack by Russia in retaliation for sanctions related to its invasion of Ukraine.

Norway is now the largest supplier of pipeline gas to Europe and disruption is a major concern, but there are signs that power cables and wind farms are also being targeted. The near-impossible task of protecting miles of underwater infrastructure has come under the spotlight after September’s gas pipeline blasts in the Baltic Sea.

“Since the start of the war in Ukraine, vigilance against potential risks to our critical offshore infrastructure has increased sharply,” the document said. “All North Sea nations have understood this reality.”

The threat is growing. The UK said last week it had seen attempts by Russian hackers to damage or destroy critical national infrastructure. The Belgian government also reported that 30 Russian naval vessels transited the English Channel and were in international waters last year. These included a frigate, a destroyer and a submarine.

Nine nations are attending the summit in the Belgian port city of Ostend, but it’s not clear how many will sign the pact, which is expected by the end of the year. It will build on a statement agreed by political leaders on Monday to protect assets and increase security around infrastructure. A representative from NATO will also attend the meetings.

“The energy sector is becoming more and more entangled with geopolitical risks,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said in an interview. “We see that there could be an additional task for the authorities.”

green energy

The nine governments have committed to making the North Sea one of the world’s largest hubs for renewable energy. The nations – which also include Luxembourg, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium – signed a declaration to accelerate the construction of “massive scale” offshore wind projects.

The combined goal is to install 120 gigawatts of offshore wind power in the North Sea by 2030 and 300 gigawatts by 2050.

“In response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and energy blackmail attempts against Europe, we will accelerate our efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption,” the statement said.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak did not attend the event, instead sending Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps to try to smooth relations with Europe after Brexit. Shapps is likely to face questions about the climate impact of plans to develop the Rosebank oil and gas field.

offshore wind destinations

  • Belgium will build 6 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 and 8 GW by 2040
  • Denmark will allow at least 5.3 GW of total offshore wind capacity to be built in the North Sea in 2030
  • France aims to deploy at least 2.1 GW of offshore wind by 2030 and 4.6-17 GW by 2050
  • Germany will install at least 26.4 GW of offshore wind by 2030 and 66 GW in the North Sea by 2045
  • The Netherlands will deploy around 21 GW of offshore wind capacity around 2030 and is evaluating whether 50 GW in 2040 and 72 GW in 2050 are feasible
  • According to the document, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands aim to develop the first interconnected system of energy islands and clusters in the North Sea by the mid-2030s

Countries will work together to build more power cables connecting offshore wind farms in the North Sea to key parts of Europe’s power grid. Other key areas of collaboration will focus on promoting a renewable hydrogen market and promoting carbon capture and storage – with the North Sea seen as having great potential for storing injected carbon dioxide.

Executives will also meet with executives from key companies involved in building and developing the projects. Despite political rhetoric in favor of renewable energy, no final investment decisions in offshore wind farms were made in the past year. Commodity costs, rising interest rates and inflation have made it much more risky to approve large projects.

“We have to massively ramp up the European wind supply chains,” said Sven Utermöhlen, Chairman of the WindEurope Chair and CEO of RWE Offshore Wind. “Taking into account the development of inflation to increase the investment security of manufacturers and developers and thus enable the lowest financing costs.”

–With the support of Katharina Rosskopf.

© 2023 Bloomberg LP

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