Offshore energy development

The offshore environment is home to various components of renewable energy infrastructure and thus plays an integral role in a successful energy transition. Offshore renewables (ORE) will greatly contribute to the the renewable electrification process necessary for a climate neutral economy. Subsea cables interconnect terrestrial grids and enable the trading of electricity between different countries, thereby increasing security of electricity supply. Recognisant of this, RGI is involved in several activities to ensure that these developments are based on nature protection, ecosystem restoration and collaboration at all levels.

Offshore Coalition for Energy and Nature

In order to limit global warming to a 1.5° increase as per the Paris Agreement and decarbonise the European energy system, a significant increase in renewable energy generation will be necessary, including offshore resources. The European Commission estimates that 30% of European electricity demand will be supplied by offshore wind by 2050, between 240-450 GW (up from 22.1 GW currently). In order to unite the diverse actors involved in offshore energy development and plan this future collaboratively, in 2020, RGI founded the 'Offshore Coalition for Energy and Nature' (OCEaN).

OCEaN consists of NGOs, the wind industry and transmission system operators from across Europe, which have joined forces to cooperate on the sustainable deployment of offshore wind, while ensuring alignment with nature protection and healthy marine ecosystems. On 16 November 2020, OCEaN signed a Memorandum of Understanding and formally committed themselves to working together. Find more information on the event here.

OCEaN will provide an open forum for discussion, where existing information and experiences are assessed and collated, needs for further research are identified and suggestions are made on how to improve planning offshore wind development for the European seas.

Read more about the Coalition for Offshore Energy and Nature here.

Subsea Cables and the Environment

Another important topic for the offshore environment is interconnection via subsea cables. Interconnection between neighbouring countries is a vital flexibility option, an indispensable aspect of an energy system based on variable renewables, and vital for security of supply. Current EU targets stipulate that by 2030, Member states should be able to transport 15% of their generation capacity to neighbouring countries, up from the 10% by 2020 target. Furthermore, the European Commission forecasts that the large increase in offshore capacity will require up to 1000 more offshore substations, cable routes and onshore substation connections.  The total (offshore) grid infrastructure requirements will thus also greatly expand, with subsea cables being a necessary main feature.

The environmental effects associated with subsea cables are disturbance, underwater noise, heat dissipation, electromagnetic fields and contamination. They can occur during the laying, operation and/or removal of the cables. RGI intends to better understand the effects of subsea cables on the marine environment, identify key environmental information and possible knowledge gaps. RGI is also willing to explore the possibilities of using the grid infrastructure to raise environmental data that may contribute to closing knowledge gaps and supporting permitting procedures and environmental protection.


Cristina Simioli
Programme Manager - Offshore Energy and Nature

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Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the LIFE Programme. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.