Officials from Britain and the Netherlands said on Monday that they had agreed to build a giant undersea electric cable for sharing the power generated from offshore wind farms.
The deal, which is preliminary, would be an early building block in a plan that is gradually taking shape for a makeover of the North Sea, which for decades has been Europe’s main source of domestically produced oil and natural gas. The new vision is to make the sea a key location for renewable energy shared among nearby nations.
“Close collaboration on offshore wind energy and interconnection among North Sea countries is imperative,” said Rob Jetten, Dutch minister for climate and energy.
The idea of the cable, called LionLink, is to share surplus electric power with places that are temporarily short of it, Mr. Jetten said. Such ties foster a more resilient and efficient system, analysts say. Having numerous markets for the energy is also attractive to investors.
Already a network of so-called interconnectors links Britain to other countries in Europe. But this one, which would take several years to complete, appears to be the first built on the idea of linking an offshore wind farm — in this case, in Dutch waters — to consumers in another country.
News of the deal came as leaders of countries around the North Sea met in Belgium, where they pledged to bolster their already-ambitious offshore wind commitments. Importantly, Britain and Norway, which are not members of the European Union, participated along with E.U. countries like Germany and Belgium.
The sharp reduction of Russian gas flows to Europe after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year has highlighted the importance for Europe of developing energy sources that are not dependent on Moscow. European countries had already embraced offshore wind to address climate change.
Denmark, Belgium and other countries are drawing up plans for large energy installations that could include artificial islands capable of handling the power generated from multiple offshore wind farms. Surplus electricity would be used to create a clean fuel like hydrogen for exporting to energy-needy neighbors like Germany.
“I see an investment curve that is only going one way, and that’s up,” Lars Aagaard, Denmark’s minister for climate, energy and utilities, said in a recent interview.
While 2022 was a disappointing year for offshore wind in terms of investment decisions, the ambitious targets being set are giving the industry a boost in 2023.
“We have already seen some good signs,” said Soeren Lassen, head of offshore wind at Wood Mackenzie, a consulting firm. Investment approvals for European offshore wind projects in the first quarter of 2023 were almost three times last year’s total, according to Mr. Lassen.
Both Britain and the Netherlands have made significant investments in offshore wind and plan to greatly expand the power generated from turbines installed around their coasts in the next few years.
The planned cable would allow Britain to be supplied by a large offshore wind farm in Dutch waters as well as permit other sharing of electric power. The developers of the cable would be the power network operators in the two countries, Britain’s National Grid and TenneT in the Netherlands.
Britain’s energy security minister, Grant Shapps, said the interconnector had the potential to light up more homes than in Birmingham and Manchester, two of the country’s largest cities, combined.