Bid to turn North Sea oil industry to wind

Greenpeace calls on five countries to back offshore wind, says environmental impacts acceptable

Greenpeace International has called on North Sea countries to launch a huge investment programme in offshore wind energy. Wind is now ready to provide the future basis for Europe's existing offshore oil and gas industries, the group says. It is demanding an end to new oil and gas licences and licensing of sea areas for wind power development instead.

Greenpeace's call is based on a study commissioned from the Wind Energy Institute of Germany (Dewi). The report assesses technical and economic aspects of building wind turbines up to 70 kilometres offshore in waters of up to 50 metres. It also gauges likely impacts on habitats and marine wildlife, concluding that "offshore wind energy and the local environment can develop in harmony".

Drawing on these conclusions, Greenpeace is calling on North Sea countries to install some 6,400 megawatts (MW) of new offshore wind capacity per annum, capable of generating just over 19 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity annually. This level of output is just 1% of the technical wind resource of the North Sea, the group says.

Installing 6,400 MW of capacity annually would mean doubling Europe's record 1999 rate of expansion - virtually none of it offshore - and is higher than the latest industry targets (ENDS Daily 16 October).

Growing the industry at this rate would generate 160,000 jobs, it says, and supply an extra 6.4m homes per year entirely with wind-generated electricity, Greenpeace says. By 2012, it adds, the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark could have avoided carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to 10% of their 1990 emissions.

To achieve this potential, Greenpeace calls on governments to cooperate over extending national grids and to launch wind measurement programmes. It also calls for all new offshore energy installations to be subjected to a global environmental impact assessment. Governments should agree "the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy production" in the region at the fifth North Sea ministerial conference in March 2002, Greenpeace urges.

Follow Up:
Greenpeace, tel: +32 20 523 6222; Dewi, tel: +49 4421 48080. See also a Greenpeace press briefing and the report: Offshore Wind Energy in the North Sea.

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