European leaders have taken a bold first step in harnessing the massive potential of the North Sea in accelerating Europe’s energy transition following the second North Sea Summit held in Belgium last April.By Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp-Bruges(pictured)

Leaders from the EU, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Ireland, Norway, and the United Kingdom – the so-called North Sea Coalition – gathered in the coastal city of Ostend to confirm their goal to upscale the offshore power generation capacity by building the largest green power plant in Europe by 2050 in the middle of the North Sea.

Through seamless cooperation between the many partners in Western Europe and beyond, we’re more likely to establish economies of scale, access raw materials and strengthen our competitiveness on the international energy market. This might be a help to get end-consumers to employ offshore power and green hydrogen.

Building upon the last year’s agreement to quadruple offshore power generation capacity to 150 GW by 2050, this year’s summit also looked at how the same wind energy produced in the North Sea could be used to support the European green hydrogen ambitions that are key to the clean energy transition.

Such an ambition is more important today than ever before, with North Sea wind energy representing a crucial player in Western Europe’s energy transition to support the electrification of our economy. The transition towards clean electricity is a key step in the broader durability transition of our industries who need vast amounts of climate neutral energy. It is however not the only path to provide that clean energy to our industry.

Some value chains and companies operate in a hard-to-abate industry, including heavy transport, steel production, refineries, and chemicals. In addition, sustainable molecules and green hydrogen are also essential. They permit us to offer a robust energy mix for companies, based on their own choice of technology, their needs within the value chains and the wishes of their customers. ​

Port of Antwerp-Bruges also plays a role in accelerating the energy transition and providing zero carbon energy to millions of European households and businesses. Ports like ours function as an energy and industry hub, capable of bringing all these different forms of energy together. We import all these types of energy by ships and pipeline, and export them via all available means such as pipeline, barge, rail and road. By providing clean and renewable energy sources for Belgium – and by extension Western Europe in a whole – the port aims to support the climate mission and thus our future sustainable economy. Ultimately, green hydrogen is the perfect fit to accomplish the port’s goal to go climate neutral, while also greening businesses of their partners and end-consumers. This is possible thanks to keeping a close and active collaboration with all of our partners and customers.

Such a change, however, takes more than good intentions, with a need for significant investments in infrastructure and advanced technologies to produce green hydrogen. As a key advocate for the green hydrogen economy, Port of Antwerp-Bruges has made conscious ecological and economic changes to operations throughout the years.

To this end, Port of Antwerp-Bruges finds itself in a strategical geographic position as a key entry point to house raw materials needed for green hydrogen, such as electrolysers, wind turbines and solar panels. As the transition is taking place rapidly, we must also appeal to imported sustainable energy sources. The North Sea wind energy will be one of them, next to the ones coming from other continents where there is sun and wind in abundance.

Next to that, it facilitates the production by providing innovative logistical infrastructure to transport the green hydrogen to consumers. ​

Looking to the future, green hydrogen is fundamental to enable the energy transition that the Port of Antwerp-Bruges seeks to implement. By facilitating the green hydrogen economy, we are moving towards a world with reduced CO2 emissions and induced energy security. We need to keep on investing in a long-term commitment on a European and global level with different stakeholders. This way, we’ll have a strong and sustainable framework and we’re able to assure the adoption of end-consumers.