Romania’s offshore wind law sets a Southeast European benchmark

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At the end of April, the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis promulgated the Law on Offshore Wind Energy, which regulates the general framework necessary for the implementation of electricity production projects from offshore wind resources, which makes Romania the first country in the Black Sea region to adopt such a law and one of the leading nations in offshore wind in Southeastern Europe.

A regional pioneer

Indeed, as Christoph Zipf, spokesperson at WindEurope recalls, offshore wind is currently mostly a North Sea and Baltic Sea game.

“The North Sea countries are making good progress on developing an interconnected offshore wind grid with energy islands and hybrid offshore wind farms which are connected to two or more countries and will help to more effectively utilise the power of the wind,” he tells CEENERGYNEWS. “In the Baltic Sea, Poland is making serious progress in installing its first commercial-scale offshore wind farms. But in other parts of Europe, offshore wind is still a novelty.”

“If Romania gets its offshore wind auction design and schedules right it can still be one of the pioneers of offshore wind in Southern Europe,” he continues. “Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece are all working on their offshore wind laws and auctions. But none of them have had a first commercial offshore wind auction yet. In some of these countries changes in government and other problems have slowed things down. Romania could catch up if they prove to be serious about offshore wind development.”

Projections from the World Bank suggest that offshore wind will add between 15 to 21 gigawatts (GW)/per year from 2025 to 2030 and data show that Romania has an offshore wind potential of 76 GW of installed capacity, providing a conducive environment for the development of this type of renewable energy. Based on these assumptions, the country has announced it will develop its first offshore wind farm by 2032.

“At the pace set by the bill, by the year 2032, we will be able to have the first MW of offshore wind energy produced in the National Energy System,” said Sebastian Burduja, Romania’s Minister of Energy at the beginning of April, when Romania’s Chamber of Deputies adopted the offshore wind energy law. “Moreover,” he continued, “offshore wind energy production will allow us to strengthen the Romanian industry through domestic production of green hydrogen and value-added products based on green ammonia.”

According to a modelling exercise, published by the independent think-tank Energy Policy Group (EPG), 15 GW of offshore wind capacities need to be developed in Romania’s Black Sea exclusive economic area by 2050, to achieve climate neutrality. This would become the country’s largest source of electricity production, with more than 40 per cent of the total, in some scenarios.

Following the President’s promulgation, the Ministry of Energy will launch a dedicated study within 3 months of the entry into force of the law, which is expected by 30 May, to assess wind potential, grid capacity, possible Maritime Spatial Planning restrictions including biodiversity and environment and to gather information on concession award procedures.

Overall, consultancy firm Rystad Energy, together with WindEurope, has estimated that wind generation allowed Europe to avoid nearly 100 billion cubic metres (bcm) of fossil fuel imports in 2023 (mainly coal and natural gas), thus becoming crucial in an energy security dimension.

“Offshore wind is homegrown, scalable and competitive, it can become central to Southeast Europe’s energy security and growth strategy,” comments Mr Zipf. “Potential investors now need a better understanding of the size and location of the sites Romania wants to auction. Then much will depend on the final auction design. It’s good that Romania wants to use Contracts for Differences (CfDs). CfDs have proven to be a good revenue stabilisation model in the UK, Denmark and elsewhere in Europe.”

Based on the Ministry of Energy’s study, by 31 March 2025, the Romanian government will approve the offshore wind perimeters and by 30 June 2025, the subsequent acts of implementing the law will be approved, following which the ministry will initiate a competitive procedure for awarding concession contracts. By 30 June 2025, the government will also adopt the royalty value that concessionaires will pay to the Romanian state, determined based on the results of the study conducted by the ministry.

Grid-related challenges: how to put the right supporting infrastructure in place 

Yet, there are still many challenges for a full exploitation of the offshore wind energy potential.

“It’s not enough to just build the wind turbines,” agrees Mr Zipf. “Romania must put the right supporting infrastructure in place to make the most of its offshore wind potential. This means that they need to improve grid connections to transport the electricity built offshore – both offshore cables but also reinforced onshore grids to distribute the large amounts of electricity to where they are needed – to the big cities and factories.”

According to EPG, the Dobrogea region in southeast Romania, bordering the Black Sea, boasts the highest concentration of installed renewable capacities in the country, primarily wind energy, with approximately 3,000 MW already operational. Additionally, the region houses another significant energy production facility, the Cernavodă Nuclear Power Plant, which currently has an installed capacity of 1,400 MW. Thus, substantial transmission line work is necessary in this area. Following the country’s electricity transmission system operator Transelectrica’s Ten Years Development Plan (TYNDP), the ongoing power grid development projects in Dobrogea aim to support the integration of an additional 2,008 MW of new wind capacities.

Signing of the agreement between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Hungary and Romania.

Another way to tackle the grid challenges is for Romania and Bulgaria to collaborate by creating an energy island. This would enhance interconnection capacity with other Black Sea countries, such as Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, significantly improving energy security and contributing to regional price stability. Indeed, a step in this direction was represented by the signing of an agreement in December 2022 between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Hungary and Romania to build an underwater electric cable under the Black Sea. The 1,100-kilometre cable – which would be the longest underwater electric cable in the world – will help reinforce the EU’s security of supply by bringing electricity from renewable sources to the block, via Romania and Hungary.

Romania’s port strategy must go hand in hand with offshore wind farms

The second issue underlined by Mr Zipf regards Romania’s port strategy. Which ports shall function as installation ports? Which ports can be used for operation and maintenance hubs for existing offshore wind farms?

“Likely Romania will need to invest in its current port infrastructure to allow for these crucial offshore wind operations,” Christoph Zipf points out. “If they do it right, offshore wind will create many jobs and value in Romania’s coastal cities and regions.”

Undoubtedly, ports must be equipped to support the manufacturing of wind turbines, the production of foundations and the installation, operation and maintenance of wind farms. EU funding is already available for port infrastructure to aid offshore wind deployment.

Investing in highly skilled workforce

Lastly, according to WindEurope’s spokesperson, Romania needs to invest in the workforce of the future.

“Offshore wind requires technical skillsets as well as endurance and training,” he concludes. “It offers great opportunities for young talents but also for re-skilling and upskilling workers that are currently working in other technical jobs like the coal sector or maritime jobs like shipping.”

In this regard, EPG estimates that the expansion of offshore wind in Romania could create a total of 22,000 new full-time equivalent jobs, with 20,000 in the capital phase and 1,800 in operations and maintenance (O&M). This includes 15,500 direct new jobs at the local level, provided Romania attracts investors in wind turbine component manufacturing, as well as in construction, installation and plant balance.

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