The countries around the North Sea have just agreed on establishing a cooperation to promote the development of offshore wind turbines in the North Sea. This cooperation will imply, among other things, that the national rules and conditions under which offshore wind turbines are erected will be coordinated to a far greater extent than is presently the case.

The North Sea countries, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, as well as the European Commission signed a political declaration on "Energy cooperation between the North Seas Countries" on 6 June 2016. The declaration is a political agreement which is not legally binding.

The purpose of the cooperation is to coordinate the planning and development of offshore wind farms and wiring work across borders as well as facilitate joint cross-border tender procedures looking ahead.

In practice, the countries will cooperate through existing fora as well as new working committees, including, for example, high-level political representatives of the North Sea countries.

The declaration lays down specific initiatives to be considered by the working committees and countries to result in a common action plan applicable for 2016-2019.

Harmonisation of rules
From the action plan it appears that the North Sea countries intend to harmonise parts of the rules applicable to offshore wind turbine projects to facilitate participation in tender procedures on the part of industrial players in the entire North Sea area.

This applies to rules within:

  • Health and safety
  • Vessel and crew standards
  • Marking of offshore wind turbines
  • Recognition of certification standards of wind turbine components

In addition, the countries also intend to work together to develop a common framework for environmental assessment of offshore wind turbine projects.

Coordination of tender procedures, terms of aid schemes and infrastructure
The erection of offshore wind farms will usually take place by way of national tender procedures. Therefore, the action plan also lays down that the North Sea countries will increase coordination of tender procedures both in respect of planning and their actual completion. Ultimately, this may result in the countries cooperating on the timing of such tender procedures.

The national aid schemes are, of course, of great significance to the projects. Neither the action plan nor the declaration contains any specific obligations in that respect, but it appears, however, that the countries will possibly run pilot projects under which the national aid schemes will open the doors to projects erected in the waters of another country.

Promoting the development of offshore wind farms, the North Sea countries will also use the opportunity to connect the national transmission networks via North Sea infrastructure to improve regional reliability of supply and exchange of electricity across countries.

In Denmark, this has already been on the drawing board as part of the infrastructure of the offshore wind farm at Kriegers Flak off the island of Møn. Kriegers Flak, which is located in Danish waters, will be connected to the German offshore wind farm Baltic 2, and, in that way, electricity may be exchanged with Germany.

Background analysis
Prior to signing the declaration on cooperation, the European Commission prepared an analysis of the legislative framework for the development of offshore wind power potential in the North Sea.

The analysis suggests that several obstacles exist for the development of offshore wind power in the North Sea. According to the analysis, such obstacles are primarily due to the differences in the national legislation and legal practice of the North Sea countries.