North Sea Long-Term Vision Needed — EU Renewable Energy Policy, Part 4

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This is part of a series about the EU Parliament and needed policies. The articles in this series are:

  1. The EU Parliament Elections & Why They Matter — EU Renewable Energy Politics, Part 1
  2. European Transition To Renewable Energy Is Impossible Without The EU — EU Renewable Energy Politics, Part 2
  3. Will Electric Flying Overtake High-Speed Trains?
  4. North Sea Long-Term Vision Needed (this one)

North Sea Long-Term Vision Needed

The shallow seas around Europe.

Northern and Western Europe do not have the abundance of sun that Southern Europe and most of the USA have. But it has wind, lots of winds, and large shallow seas — the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the Irish Sea, the Adriatic Sea, and part of the Black Sea, strategically dispersed to make sure the wind always blows somewhere. Very clever of those far-sighted cavemen who modeled the shorelines of what would become Europe. They made sure the future could be energy safe.

What went wrong with Europe was that after the Romans made a FUBAR of it, it fell apart in hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of little fiefdoms. After nearly two millennia of wars, we have just a few dozen left — still too many, but a group of countries came to the realization that the only way to not fight the next war was integration in a way that made war impossible. As a consequence, the EU was born.

But old habits die hard, and those shallow seas designed for the wind parks that could provide Europe energy until the sun goes nova, well, they were carved up and divided among the fiefdoms on their coasts. The EU showed its value. The carving was done without a war breaking out.

The worst example of this shortsighted pissing contest is the North Sea, perhaps the sea with the most commercial shipping, beside thousands of oil and gas rigs, and the largest fishing fleets in the world. In this continuous traffic jam between the overpopulated shores, the largest wind park at sea needs to get built. And there is no greater joy than planning your wind park just upwind of a neighboring fiefdom’s wind park, polluting the wind, robbing it of its energy.

It was so beautifully designed with the extra shallow Dogger Bank in the middle, the perfect breeding ground for large schools of fish to feed the people on the shores. Less shallow waters between the Dogger Bank and the shores enable fishing without harming the sea ecosystem plowing the sea’s floor. These deeper coastal waters also offer broad shipping lanes, and even a deep trench along the northern coast to facilitate the transport of water from the Baltic to the Atlantic Ocean.

Around the feet of the wind turbine masts, the extra protection blocks on the sea floor can provide a sheltered place for all sorts of marine life to flourish, a perfect symbiotic system of energy for the land dwellers and home for the sea creatures. The many masts will keep most fishing boats away from the breeding grounds, creating added protection for the young and vulnerable.

The most likely situation according to the Lowlands by the Sea fiefdom (aka The Netherlands). Stagnation, local economic priorities, the UK still going it alone. 4°C global warming assured.

But, alas, it is not meant to be, at least not yet. The local fiefdoms on the coast are only concerned with their personal energy policy. A number of them, like the lowlands by the sea, are mostly concerned how to keep the coal burning and the gas flowing. They are making plans and preparations. They are holding conferences and publishing white papers (grey recycled paper would be better). They sign impressive treaties and establish important joined commissions. They even started building some small wind parks, all in preparation for when the time comes that they can’t stall no longer, when the forces of nature and public opinion force them to action.

The international electric transport grid operator TenneT designed an island to facilitate the interconnects to the shores of all those competing fiefdoms. And was told to wait another 10 years before starting to build the needed infrastructure. The plans for the wind parks are ready. The shipping lanes are mapped. The breeding grounds need the protection. Another two dozen fiefdoms without a coastal presence need the energy from the North Sea winds.

The situation by 2050 to reach the Parish climate agreement goals. This situation should be reached at least a decade sooner. and at the parcels of the neighboring fiefdoms too.

The EU did get those coastal fiefdoms to divide the mining and fishing rights without sending their war fleets to support their arguments. The EU failed to get them to start to harvest the wind. There are too many disputes, too many questions about very important policy issues, like where are the cables from the sea coming on land? Which commission is allowed to discuss which problem, and how are the voting rights distributed in those commissions?

And those are just the problems explaining why there is not much building of wind parks this year. There is a clear need for management and planning for the next 10 years to get started, and the next 50 years to keep it operating. The dozens of competing visions and plans by all the stakeholders and wannabe stakeholders in the coastal fiefdoms do not help.

We need the EU to do what the EU does best: Develop a vision, a plan, a plan that is good for most and does not trample the interests of the few, something that can be hated by everybody and improved upon by nobody — the hallmark of real governing for the people, by the people, and of the people.

We need the EU to step in and the EU parliament to guard over the laws for these very important resources for the transition to renewable energy. Nobody else can. And do this not only for the North Sea, but also for the Baltic, the Irish Sea, the Adriatic Sea, and the Black Sea.

And to give the EU parliament a mandate to do this, go vote! And vote for a party or delegate who has the interests of more than just his local backers at heart, one who feels responsible for all of Europe and the environment, as is the task of the EU parliament. This is not a federal diet where every member is judged by his capacity to bring home the pork.

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Maarten Vinkhuyzen

Grumpy old man. The best thing I did with my life was raising two kids. Only finished primary education, but when you don’t go to school, you have lots of time to read. I switched from accounting to software development and ended my career as system integrator and architect. My 2007 boss got two electric Lotus Elise cars to show policymakers the future direction of energy and transportation. And I have been looking to replace my diesel cars with electric vehicles ever since. At the end of 2019 I succeeded, I replaced my Twingo diesel for a Zoe fully electric.

Maarten Vinkhuyzen has 279 posts and counting. See all posts by Maarten Vinkhuyzen