(OW) The Swedish Energy Agency has issued a report that provides a basis for the country’s marine planning to enable 120 TWh of offshore wind energy production (or 30 GW in generation capacity). However, while the report points to areas that could accommodate further offshore wind capacity, the authorities are yet to designate new marine areas, according to the Swedish Wind Energy Association.
The existing marine plans in Sweden designate areas that can accommodate 20–30 TWh of electricity production per year, which is not sufficient to meet increased electricity demand, so the goal has been to enable an additional 90 TWh of annual electricity production in Swedish marine areas.
The new areas identified within the Swedish Energy Agency’s report are located in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia and already have other uses assigned to them.
In a press release from 31 March, Robert Andrén, Director General of the Swedish Energy Agency, is quoted as saying: “We have not reached the objectives for the mission as we had hoped. As it stands today, it is not possible to find enough suitable areas for energy extraction where there are not already other designated societal interests. However, we have chosen to point out areas that are clearly suitable for offshore wind power, even if there are other interests there”.
The report calls for prioritising offshore energy production over other uses and the coexistence between other sea users and offshore wind, and proposes a number of measures that can contribute to facilitating a sustainable expansion of offshore wind power.
The Swedish Energy Agency issued the report on 31 March as the first step in the process to update the marine plans with new areas for energy production since, by December 2024, the Maritime and Water Authority must submit proposals for new marine plans to the government.
In February 2022, the government decided to identify new areas for energy production in the marine plans. The process has been divided into two stages, the planning basis for new or modified areas being the first and bringing together nine agencies.
Several assignments serve as a basis for the marine planning work, and the planning basis that identifies areas with the potential to house offshore wind farms is an important starting point, according to the Swedish Energy Agency.
The second stage, which involves the Maritime and Water Authority submitting proposals for new marine plans to the government by December 2024, has been running in parallel with the first stage.
In a comment on the recently published reports, the Swedish Wind Energy Association pointed out that, while the Swedish Energy Agency’s document describes which areas are attractive for the expansion of offshore wind, the authorities have not agreed on new areas for energy production, which is “a crucial prerequisite for an efficient and powerful expansion of electricity production at sea”.
The association noted that a particular challenge for designating new offshore wind areas was the Armed Forces’ assessment that the exercise areas where they cannot accept additional infrastructure may increase until 2030. In order to progress towards the goal of 120 TWh of electricity production, the issue of coexistence between several interests, especially the defence interest, needs to be resolved, the Swedish Wind Energy Association said.
The national wind energy industry association hailed the Energy Agency’s call for energy production to be prioritised if the goal of 120 TWh of electricity production is to be achieved, which is in line with the EU’s recently revised Renewables Directive making permanent the previous temporary emergency measures for faster permit processes by stating that the expansion of energy production is of overriding public interest.
The 120 TWh target means 30 GW of installed offshore wind capacity, which further means installing 1,500 wind turbines with an output of 20 MW on only 5 per cent of the sea plans’ surface, the industry association said. In comparison, Denmark and Belgium have allocated 10-15 per cent of their sea surface area to energy production in their marine plans, the Swedish Wind Energy Association emphasised.
While the marine plans should only be indicative, they have much greater importance in Sweden since the country applies the so-called “open door” system that is completely market-driven and which lacks national objectives, the wind energy association said.