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European offshore wind could hit 180 GW by 2040: IEA

Highlights

Green hydrogen would boost adds further

$1 trillion global spend to 2040

Floating wind the game changer

London — European offshore wind capacity could increase tenfold by 2040 under carbon-neutral policies, the International Energy Agency said Friday.

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Launching its Offshore Wind Outlook 2019 report in Copenhagen, the agency said Europe would be the engine of global growth, followed closely by China.

Today, offshore wind capacity in the EU stands at almost 20 GW. Under current policy settings, that is set to rise to nearly 130 GW by 2040.

"However, if the European Union reaches its carbon-neutrality aims, offshore wind capacity would jump to around 180 GW by 2040 and become the region's largest single source of electricity," the IEA said.

A more radical climate scenario where policies drive material demand for green hydrogen derived from offshore wind-fed electrolysis could push European offshore wind capacity dramatically higher, it said.

Meanwhile global offshore wind capacity could increase 15-fold and attract around $1 trillion of cumulative investment by 2040, the IEA said.

China's offshore wind capacity is set to rise to 110 GW by 2040 from 4 GW today, while stronger sustainable energy policies could push this to over 170 GW, the agency said.

Related story: Power financiers bullish on merchant wind, gas-fired generation's longevity

FLOATING TURBINES

"The huge promise of offshore wind is underscored by the development of floating turbines that could be deployed further out at sea," the IEA said.

In theory this could enable offshore wind to meet the entire electricity demand of Europe, the US and Japan several times over, the agency said.

The sector offered huge opportunities to oil and gas sector companies to draw on their offshore expertise.

"An estimated 40% of the lifetime costs of an offshore wind project, including construction and maintenance, have significant synergies with the offshore oil and gas sector," it said. "That translates into a market opportunity of $400 billion or more in Europe and China over the next two decades."

The potential could only be realized if governments and regulators provided the long-term market design and low-cost finance supporting wind farms, subsea grid links and onshore grid strengthening.

"Offshore wind currently provides just 0.3% of global power generation, but its potential is vast," said the IEA's Executive Director Fatih Birol. "Much work remains to be done by governments and industry for it to become a mainstay of clean energy transitions."

-- Henry Edwardes-Evans, Henry.Edwardes-Evans@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jonathan Fox, jonathan.fox@spglobal.com