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THE CAPACITY of offshore wind power installed in the European Union reached 18.5 gigawatts (GW) by the end of 2018. Seven years earlier, in 2011, the power was 4.5 GW. The intensity of this deployment has been accompanied by strong job growth. In 2018, the activities of offshore wind energy –research, manufacturing, operations and maintenance– surpassed those of terrestrial energy in the number of direct full-time positions. The employment in offshore facilities has increased from 20,000 to 210,000 people, between 2008 and 2018. 51% of all work in wind energy in the European Union is already developed in the marine subsector.
All these data are extracted from the second Report on the Blue Economy in the European Union, presented on May 16, 2019 in Lisbon by the Commission, on the occasion of the European Maritime Day. The report has been prepared jointly by the Directorate General of Maritime Affairs and Pesqueros and the Joint Research Center, the intra-Commission think tank for the economic and public policy analysis. The 2019 edition provides, among other innovations, higher quality data in emerging industries whose statistical support is still precarious, such as, among others, the cases of renewable energy, desalination or the blue bioeconomy.
The European Union’s blue economy strategy combines the conservationist focus of the seas and oceans and its natural capital, taking advantage of its full economic, scientific and innovative potential. The European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, has summarized it as follows: «A coordination of the potential of the blue planet with the planning of the green planet».
Brexit will alter the EU’s leadership in offshore wind energy. It will have a direct impact on research, development and technology trade with the great britain, from regions producing blue innovation, such as the ORs
45% of the European population –214 million people– live in coastal regions, whose contribution to wealth is 42.8% of EU GDP. The regions of the Atlantic basin, including seven of the nine outermost regions, contribute 3 trillion euros, 20% of the EU’s GDP.
The Report reflects the intense growth of offshore wind energy in the EU. According to an estimate by the European Investment Bank, ten million European households are already supplied by electricity generated from offshore wind farms. The 10% of the capacity of wind power installed in the Union is offshore. In 2016, 11 out of 100 new wind power installations were offshore. By the end of 2018, they were 23 out of 100.
The European offshore represents 91% of the installed power in the world. The aggregation of the European block hides, however, the fact that it is the United Kingdom that really leads the deployment of this technology. It is the economy with the most installed capacity in the sea: 44% of the offshore wind energy of the whole EU, followed by Germany (34%), Denmark (7%), Belgium (6.4%) and Holland (6%) ). Brexit would alter the leadership of the EU in this field and would have a direct impact on the research, development and trade of wind technology with the British Isles, from regions producing blue innovation, such as the ORs.
It has required an investment of 67,000 million euros, since 2011, to reach the 18.5 GW of current capacity of offshore wind energy. The cost per megawatio between 2011 and 2017 was 3.6 million euros. At the end of 2018, it has been reduced to 2.43 million euros. The Commission’s report estimates that the reduction in the cost of technology and decarbonization policies will accelerate the deployment of offshore wind farms in the short-medium term.
If the installation of new capacity has been increasing at a rate of 2.5 GW per year between 2011 and 2018, the Commission estimates that, by 2045, the deployment rate will increase to between 12.5 and 20 gigawatts per year in the Union European
Half of the investment in wind energy in Europe is already for offshore installations. The effect on the labor market is evident. Offshore wind technology currently employs 210,000 people in the European Union, 190,000 more than ten years ago.
Each megawatt of installed capacity has generated 11 jobs between 2011 and 2016. The Commission indicates, by way of illustration, that a 500-megawatt offshore wind farm is associated with the creation of 5,500 full-time jobs. 60% is dedicated to the manufacture of turbines, mill blades, towers and other components, and 24%, to operations and maintenance.
The European Commission mentions the Canary Islands for the «added value» of their universities in the strategy of specialization in niches of blue innovation «with high potential»
The Commission’s Report notes a trend towards the deployment of floating facilities. Approximately, 80% of the offshore available at the end of 2018 in the European Union is in waters of more than 60 meters deep, which significantly increases installation through fixed platforms on the seabed. This type of facilities is giving way to floating platforms, cheaper and with less environmental impact. The floating facilities currently have an installed capacity of 30 megawatts in the European Union. Between 2019 and 2021, new deployments are scheduled with a total power of 210 megawatts. 25 of these will be installed on floating platforms in the Canary Islands and another 100 in French regions, according to the Commission in its report on the blue economy. The outermost region of the Canary Islands is one of the places where wind energy technology is being investigated.
OUTERMOST REGIONS UNIVERSITIES
The smart specialization strategy reinforces the competitive advantages of a region in the different industries of the blue economy. The Commission’s report mentions the case of the Canary Islands for the «added value» that their universities contribute to the development of their own specialization strategy. Universities and public and private R & D centers play «a relevant role in supporting innovation in the regional economy,» observes the Commission.
In the ORs, like the Canary Islands, «applied research» and technological platforms are essential to test prototypes, both for the mature sectors of the blue economy, such as tourism and shipbuilding and ship repair yards, and to «position» these territories in «niches of innovation with high potential», such as marine energies -eolics, waves and currents- «through international partnership strategies with research centers and industries» -says the Commission.
The blue economy employs 757,500 people in Spain, most of them in consolidated sectors, such as coastal tourism, fishing and aquaculture, ship construction, maritime transport or port services. In France, the EU Member State with five outermost regions, the employment associated with the blue economy amounts to 367,500 people, and in Portugal, with sovereignty in the Azores and Madeira, to 180,000.