Romanian-Bulgarian Energy Island Would Unlock Large-Scale Offshore Wind Deployment in Black Sea, Report Says
An energy island in the Black Sea developed jointly by Romania and Bulgaria would facilitate deployment of multi-gigawatt offshore wind capacity while avoiding grid challenges that both countries face in this regard, according to a new report from the Energy Policy Group (EPG), a Bucharest-based independent think-tank focused on energy and climate policies.
Titled Offshore wind – the enabler of Romania’s decarbonisation, the report builds upon a study by EPG from 2020 that estimated the total potential natural capacity for offshore wind in Romania to be 94 GW, out of which 22 GW could be unlocked with fixed-bottom offshore wind turbines.
The report also relies on modelling recently performed as part of the project Climate Recon 2050 – Dialogue on Pathways and Policies for a climate-neutral EU, according to which some 15 GW of offshore wind could be developed in the Black Sea by 2050, with 5 GW installed as soon as in 2030. In all scenarios of the modelling study, offshore wind becomes the largest source of electricity production by 2050.
However, to reach any large-scale objectives, especially by 2030, Romania has to address its grid challenges in terms of deploying significant offshore wind generation capacity, according to EPG.
In its study from 2020, the think-tank states that offshore wind farms will have to be connected to the grid in Dobrogea, an area where a large part of the country’s power generation assets were already connected, or were planned to be connected, to the grid, while the area itself has limited energy demand.
Furthermore, the 2020 study says offshore grid connections are an issue on themselves as for bigger projects that are built farther from shore high voltage direct current (HVDC) lines need to be used, which adds to higher up-front costs.
According to the new report, both Romania and Bulgaria face grid challenges in terms of connecting large amount of offshore wind capacity to the grid. Nevertheless, the two neighbouring countries have an opportunity to overcome them together by building an energy island in the Black Sea.
Installing 3 GW of Offshore Wind by 2030 Would Generate EUR 6.3 Billion
“To address the grid challenges that both Romania and Bulgaria face in deploying their offshore wind potential, a Romanian-Bulgarian (RO-BG) energy island would be an efficient and scalable solution to unlock large-scale offshore wind deployment, as well as bring valuable interconnection capacity with other Black Sea countries (such as Turkey, Georgia, as well as Azerbaijan, further east), drastically improving energy security and contributing to the regional price stability”, EPG’s report states.
The total CapEx costs allocated to Romania in a joint energy island project with Bulgaria, including 3 GW of offshore wind farms, would be EUR 8.4 billion, with EUR 810 million representing Romania’s share of the energy island, while the resulting annual energy production is estimated at 9.8 TWh, EPG says.
Furthermore, offshore wind deployment is important for energy supply and security, and would bring economic benefits through all stages of a project, from manufacturing, construction, to operation and maintenance (O&M), including boosting activities at the Port of Constanța.
Installing 3 GW of offshore wind by 2030 in Romania would generate EUR 6.3 billion, 2.6 per cent of 2021 GDP, EPG says, and could also contribute to a total of 22,000 new FTE jobs, with 15,500 in direct new jobs at the local level.
An energy island in the Black Sea Basin – for which EPG says could also interconnect the future offshore wind capacity from other countries around the basin – already has a good stepping stone: the recently announced subsea HVDC link between Romania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Hungary, according to the report.
However, if 3 GW of offshore wind (and an energy island interconnecting it) is to be reached, Romanian authorities should start taking concrete steps towards building offshore wind policy and regulation this year, according to the Energy Policy Group.
On social media, EPG summarised the actions the Romanian government needs to take in 2023 to bring this to realisation by 2030, including developing a partnership with Bulgaria, adopting an offshore wind Act, approving the Maritime Spatial Plan, and setting up the regulation for a Contract for Difference (CfD) framework.
Still, doubts about the speed with which the authorities will approach this remain high. According to the Romanian news site The Diplomat, at the launch of the EPG report on 10 January, Zoltan Nagy-Bege, the vice-president of the National Authority for Energy Regulation (ANRE), expressed skepticism on Romania having wind energy production capacities installed in the Black Sea in 2030 as multiple actions need to be taken in 2023 and 2024 so that at least 3 GW of offshore wind could be installed by that time.
Nagy-Bege pointed out that establishing an offshore wind Act, a support scheme, and a partnership with Bulgaria all need to happen by the end of this year if offshore wind deployment in the range of 3 GW is to be realised by the end of this decade.
So far, there were two developers who announced plans for offshore wind development in Romania.
In 2020, the country’s power producer Hidroelectrica said it wanted to build an offshore wind farm with a capacity of between 300 MW and 500 MW by 2026, subject to results of feasibility studies.
At the beginning of 2022, wpd offshore, now Skyborn Renewables, revealed it had submitted application documents to the Romanian government that contain plans for two offshore wind farms in Romania’s sector of the Black Sea.
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