A Roadmap To Success
In the last decade, the Dutch Government has taken a proactive approach to offshore wind development, ensuring long-term visibility of project pipelines and minimal risk for potential developers and investors.
As a result, the Netherlands has become a front-runner in cost-efficient offshore wind development and installation. To reach this position, the Dutch had to completely rethink their approach to the sector.
Up to 2017, project developers were responsible for site selection and investigation, as well as having to go through the permitting process with no guarantee projects would be approved. As a result, they faced high costs and risks before they could even apply for a subsidy. Of 80 initial applications, just four offshore wind farms with a combined capacity of less than 1 GW were actually built in the Dutch Economic Zone of the North Sea by that time.
In 2013, a broad coalition of Government, employers’ associations, trade unions, environmental organisations and the energy industry agreed things needed to change and so began the Dutch energy transition. The resulting Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth (Energy Agreement) included ambitious targets to raise the share of renewables in the energy mix to 14% by 2020 and 16% by 2023. By 2050, the country hopes to be fully climate neutral with a net zero energy supply, with offshore wind power expected to play a major role in achieving this.
Offshore wind was therefore put at the heart of the planned energy transition, with the Offshore Wind Energy Act introduced in 2015 (updated in 2021) and the Government going on to publish the country's first Offshore Wind Energy Roadmap. This first Roadmap outlined plans to boost the country's operating offshore wind capacity to 4.5 GW by 2023 and included a clear schedule for tenders and subsequent project development.
Three offshore wind farm zones – Borssele, Hollandse Kust (zuid) and Hollandse Kust (noord) – were officially designated for development under the 2023 Roadmap. Significantly, the Hollandse Kust (zuid) project – totalling 1.5 GW across four sites – was the first in Europe to be subsidy-free. All subsequent Dutch offshore wind projects which have been tendered, including the 759 MW Hollandse Kust Noord, are also being developed without subsidy.
A new Offshore Wind Energy Roadmap was published in 2019, this time aiming for around 11.5 GW operational offshore wind power by end 2030. Three new wind farm zones were allocated under this 2030 Roadmap – Hollandse Kust West (1.4 GW, subsidy-free tenders completed in 2022), IJmuiden Ver (4 GW, a combined tender is due late 2023), and Ten Noorden van de Waddeneilanden (0.7 GW, tender currently planned 2026/27).
In 2022, the offshore wind target was further raised to 21 GW by 2030/2031. To meet this target, plans for at least 10.7 GW of additional projects were announced under a new, updated, 'Additional' Offshore Wind Energy Roadmap 2030, with three new wind farm zones (Nederwiek, Lagelander and Doordewind) formally designated under the Government's overarching North Sea Programme 2022-2027.
The additional capacity is split into two parts, as outlined by Rob Jetten, Minister for Climate and Energy Policy, in his Letter to Parliament on 21 June 2022. The Letter formally announced the Additional Offshore Wind Energy Roadmap 2030 and related legislative measures to achieve the new targets, including the updated Development Framework for Offshore Wind Energy.
The first 6 GW of the additional 10.7 GW planned will be installed in the IJmuiden Ver (noord) and Nederwiek (zuid and noord) Wind Farm Zones, where preparatory site studies are most advanced and grid connection is relatively straight-forward. The first projects to be developed here are IJmuiden Ver (noord) Site V and VI (1 GW each), with the combined request for tenders planned for 2025 and both wind farms due online in 2029. Nederwiek (zuid) Site I (2 GW) and Nederwiek (noord) Site II (2 GW) will soon follow, with tenders due in 2025 and 2026 respectively to ensure they are both online in 2030.
The remaining 4.7 GW planned will be installed in the Nederwiek (noord), Hollandse Kust (west) and Doordewind, Wind Farm Zones, although specific site selection is yet to take place. An extra 2 GW is also being investigated here for overplanting purposes in light of the technical and ecological complexity of the cable routes in these areas and the longer lead times which result for spatial planning procedures.
Therefore, under the Additional Roadmap 2030, the second stage offshore wind farms (including overplanting) planned in fact total 6.7 GW – Nederwiek (noord) Site III (2 GW – tender planned for 2026), Hollandse Kust (west) Site VIII (700 MW, tender 2026/27) and Doordewind Sites I and II (each 2GW, tenders in 2027). At the latest, these are expected online in 2031 and so tender rounds for them will be completed before the end of 2027 to ensure they are operational in time (see this map for the full list of planned offshore wind development schedule).
Planning for net zero in 2050
The ambitious goals and successful approach of the Netherlands enable it to maintain a position within the top 3 of largest offshore wind countries in Europe. Even so, to meet its Net Zero by 2050 target, enshrined in the Climate Agreement, with a fully carbon-neutral energy supply, the Netherlands will need to have 38 -72 GW of operational offshore wind power by 2050, requiring a minimum of 16 GW additional capacity to be developed after 2030. Work to achieve this is now also underway and a new Offshore Wind Energy Roadmap 2040 is expected to be published by the Government later in 2023.
Also read > Dutch Offshore Wind Policy Approach
The Dutch Approach
In the Netherlands, the Government has taken on responsibility for developing offshore wind projects itself. It has introduced a stable policy environment with clear project pipelines and timetables outlined in a series of (updated) Offshore Wind Energy Roadmaps, the latest targeting 21 GW of operating capacity by 2030/31.
There are now flexible rules and regulations for offshore wind development while the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl) co-ordinates all site studies for each wind farm. This approach provides greater certainty for developers, increases investor confidence, and has been proven to foster innovation and drive down overall costs for offshore wind projects.
In a move that highlights the forward-thinking global leadership of the Netherlands in the offshore wind sector, the latest subsidy-free project tenders already have a strong emphasis on qualitative criteria, notably for system integration and ecological initiatives, rather than just lowest cost. This is to ensure smooth integration of the electricity from future offshore wind farms into the energy system, minimal impact on the environment and maximum benefit to society at reasonable cost. Options to use offshore wind generated electricity to produce green hydrogen are also under investigation.
Lagelander as a potential offshore multi-energy zone
For now, the newly designated Lagelander Wind Farm Zone is not being used under the Government's Additional Roadmap 2030. The principal reason for this, it says, is that, in the coming years, the zone will still be used intensively for gas extraction and, in addition to offshore wind energy, other new developments will be taking place that make efficient use of the area difficult to orchestrate in the period leading up to 2030. It notes that the area may be suitable for offshore production and storage of hydrogen, with offshore wind farms providing the electricity, although plans for this initiative are still in the early stages.
These activities mean that, at present, just 200-300 km2 is available for offshore wind in the zone, which could accommodate just 2-3 GW, whereas, in theory, the entire surface area of the zone could accommodate almost 8 GW.
The Government is taking more time to optimise the spatial planning of the Lagelander Wind Farm Zone. In consultation with relevant parties and the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, this includes investigating opportunities to develop the zone as an offshore ‘multi-energy zone’ after 2030, in which all these activities, including offshore wind energy, can be combined with the aim of giving substance to offshore system integration.