Development of the 2030 North Sea Strategy
The current North Sea Policy will expire in 2021. Those involved in the '2030 North Sea Strategy' development process are preparing a new policy that will give direction to the extensive developments in the North Sea, now and in the decades ahead. Developments in energy, food supply and nature protection and restoration must be coordinated, with each other and with all the other designated uses, particularly with regard to the use of space.
As a result of the global climate agreement, the Netherlands faces the challenge of making the production and use of energy more sustainable. The expansion of offshore wind-farm zones can make a considerable contribution to the required energy transition. The already designated wind-farm zones appear to be adequate for the construction of wind farms up to 2023. The ambition is to publish a Routekaart windenergie op zee (Offshore wind energy roadmap) in 2017, that will provide certainty for the period after 2023.
Wind farms, along with other forms of sustainable energy generation, affect the marine ecosystem. These effects accumulate in space and time, and it is extremely important that we obtain an adequate impression of the nature and magnitude of this accumulation.
The extensive spatial claim for further development of offshore wind energy also has an effect. This claim can conflict with the need to keep space free to ensure that the ecosystem functions naturally in accordance with the frameworks of Natura 2000 and the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). Conflicts can also arise with other functions, such as shipping, coastal development, recreation, the fishing industry and the preservation of underwater heritage.
On the other hand, there are ample opportunities for the multiple use of space in wind farms. The formulation of new policy to harmonise all these factors properly requires tight coordination and intensive cooperation between ministries, economic and social sectors and the knowledge world.
Process under way
Steps towards a long-term strategy were taken in 2016 and 2017, but this development process did not start from scratch. The partners in the Interdepartementale Directeuren Overleg Noordzee (North Sea Interdepartmental Directors’ Consultation, IDON), and stakeholder groups, had already drawn up the Noordzee 2050 Gebiedsagenda (2050 North Sea Agenda) in preceding years. This is a long-term perspective for the themes ‘building with North Sea nature’, ‘energy transition’, ‘multiple use of space’, ‘connecting land and sea’ and ‘shipping and accessibility’. This perspective was included in the 2016-2021 North Sea Policy Document. Various partners from economic sectors, knowledge institutes and authorities are currently building a long-term strategy on the basis of this 2050 North Sea Agenda. Important aspects are: energy from water, seaweed cultivation and making shipping sustainable. A great deal of attention is also being paid to the change of state which is taking place, or must take place, in the fishing industry. However, contributions from the participating parties strongly suggest that three particular strategic challenges are the driving factors behind the long-term strategy. They are: development towards the recovery of a healthy and vigorous natural environment, sustainable energy provision, and a future-proof food supply. This is because it is mainly these three ‘agents of change’ that determine the force field, and because they can only be solved in conjunction with each other and with the development of the other designated uses of the North Sea.
In line with the intentions of the new Omgevingswet (Environment and Planning Act), the development of the 2030 North Sea Strategy has become a broadly-supported participation process. This good foundation will enable it to withstand the additional pressures on the process. The 2024-2030 Offshore wind energy road map must be ready in 2017. This means that harmonisation with other users is urgent, as regards the spatial-economic perspective and with the requirements laid down by the North Sea ecosystem. All users have an interest in sufficient investment certainty. We cannot afford to miss the opportunities offered by the North Sea and its space. Moreover, Brussels requires that the frameworks for support, recovery and sustainable use of the marine ecosystem be revised when the MSFD is implemented (second round) mid 2018. As a result, the 2030 North Sea Strategy will not only interact directly with the 2024-2030 Offshore wind energy road map, but also with the creation of frameworks based on the MSFD and the Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) Directive.
A 2030 North Sea Agenda must be ready in the summer of 2018. This agenda will contain the strategic challenges – including timing, areas of tension and opportunities – with the related key options for national and (international) investment, knowledge and cooperation agendas. The strategic agenda will also outline the challenges, which are already casting their shadows, and the national scope for policymaking within the European and global regulatory frameworks.