The vision

Norstec’s vision is that renewable energy from Europe’s northern seas [i] reaches the scale of North Sea oil and gas.

Harnessing the domestic renewable energy resources from Europe’s northern seas represents an extraordinary economic and investment opportunity. Over 40GW of offshore wind capacity could be deployed in the region by 2020, generating enough electricity to power London, Paris, Berlin, Dublin, Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Brussels combined [ii]. In the longer term, the total potential of economically-accessible offshore wind energy resources in Europe is larger than current European production of oil and gas put together [iii].


This clean and secure energy resource creates a new impetus for growth. In the 18th and 19th centuries sea-borne trading links across the region enabled a first wave of industrial development in our ports and coastal cities. From the 1960s onwards, oil and gas resources fuelled a second wave of investment. Today, new technologies for accessing sustainable energy resources from the northern seas provide an engine for driving forward industrial renewal and economic development for cities and communities across the region.

North-west Europe is now the global leader in offshore wind, adding capacity equivalent capacity to a nuclear power station annually[iv]. Across Europe, offshore wind investments of over €6 billion are expected over the next year [v].

As in previous eras this new industrial revolution will be led by the ingenuity of the private sector, backed by strong pro-active government support, and enabled through a high-quality skills base in science, technology and engineering. This new revolution is also strongly backed by the public, with nearly 9 out of 10 European citizens in favour of wind energy [vi].

The objective

The goal of the Norstec alliance is to maximise the potential of the abundant offshore renewable energy resources in Europe’s northern seas, so that:

  • By 2020, large-scale deployment of offshore wind in Europe’s northern seas is fully underway, making a major contribution to the region’s energy security and economic development
  • Offshore renewables in Europe’s northern seas become the largest new source of competitive sustainable energy to 2030 and beyond
  • The expertise, skills, and technologies developed in the region can be exported as offshore renewables are constructed in markets across the world.

The opportunity

  • By 2020, over 100,000 jobs could be directly created in the offshore wind industry across the region [vii]
  • By 2022, over 8000km of high voltage offshore transmission lines could be laid across the northern seas – creating thousands more jobs, linking electricity markets, boosting the potential for trade and connecting offshore energy to where the demand is [viii].
  • By 2035, the global cumulative investment in offshore wind could reach up to €490 billion [ix]. The manufacturing centres, skills base and technologies developed through offshore wind deployment in Europe’s northern seas will put companies from the region in a prime position to capitalise from this market opportunity.

The requirements

To succeed in achieving these outcomes, we will need:

  • Innovation throughout the sector to push forward technological development, creating competitive and well-established supply chains which bring down costs and enable economic sustainability
  • Collaboration between academia, industry and investors to promote technology standardisation and to develop a highly-skilled and well-trained workforce, and cooperation between countries around the North Seas to link markets together and share resources
  • Commitment by industry participants and governments to create a favourable investment environment, including a continued stable and supportive political context underpinned by formal policies and challenging targets which promote development of the offshore renewables sector.

Making it happen

The Norstec network brings together key players in the offshore renewables sector, across developers, the supply chain and other stakeholders (investors, academia and NGOs). Through collaboration and information-sharing, it will ensure that the benefits offered by vast renewable energy potential in Europe’s northern seas are fully realised. It will promote the development of all forms of marine energy, initially focusing on the development of offshore wind. We will do this by delivering an agreed measurable plan of activity which will:

  • Communicate the scale of the opportunity and the benefits of renewable energy in Europe’s northern seas to the public and the business and political spheres;
  • Identify and promote the establishment of the framework conditions necessary for realising this vision; and

Foster exchange and co-operation within the private sector, including knowledge transfer and scientific co-operation necessary to sustain the vision.


[i] ‘Europe’s northern seas’ includes the area covered by the North Seas Countries Offshore Grid Initiative (NSCOGI): North Sea, Baltic Sea, Irish Sea, English Channel, Atlantic Ocean.

[ii] Analysis based on National Renewable Energy Action Plans. The estimated installed capacity of offshore windin 2020 for the UK (13 GW); Netherlands (5.2 GW); France (6 GW); Germany (10 GW); Denmark (1.3 GW); Belgium (2 GW); Ireland (600 MW); Sweden (200 MW).

[iii] Sources: European Environment Agency (2009) Europe’s onshore and offshore wind energy potential: An assessment of environmental and economic constraints. ; European Commission (2012) EU Energy in Figures: Statistical Pocketbook 2012. Total oil and gas production in EU 27 is around 259 Mtoe (~3,000 TWh) in 2010. According to EEA, economically competitive potential for offshore wind in 2030 is 3,400 TWh. Technical potential for offshore wind in 2030 is estimated around 30,000 TWh.

[iv] EWEA (2012). The European offshore wind industry – key trends and statistics 1st half 2012.

[v] EWEA (2012) Wind in our sails: the coming of Europe’s offshore wind energy industry.

[vi] European Commission (2011) Special Eurobarometer 364

[vii] Ecofys (2011) State of the Offshore Wind Industry in Northern Europe: Lessons Learnt in the First Decade.

[ix] IEA (2010) World Energy Outlook 2010.