NGO’s warn of loss of marine habitat as EU plans massive offshore wind expansion

NGOs have welcomed a proposal to scale up offshore windfarms but have raised concerns over its potentially negative impact on marine habitats. The warning comes as the European Commission will unveil today its masterplan to increase offshore wind capacity as part of its clean energy transition and climate neutrality plans.

The strategy – one of the pillars of the European Green Deal – is set to gather almost €800Bn for the construction of new windfarms in EU waters, according to a leaked version that circulated this week. The Commission aims to achieve at least 300GW of offshore wind capacity by 2050, which represents a 25-fold increase compared to current levels.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) cautiously welcomed the plan, arguing that wind power capacity will need to be scaled up in the next 10 to 30 years to help Europe achieve climate neutrality. However, the EEB – together with its member Seas at Risk – called for the adoption of complementary measures aimed at monitoring its impact on marine habitats and prevent biodiversity loss.

The construction and operation of fixed-bottom turbines can potentially lead to the loss of many sea mammals, birds and fish, which are very sensitive to noise and rely on their senses to search for food and follow migratory routes.

Sergiy Moroz, senior policy officer for biodiversity at the EEB, said, “We need clean energy just as much as we need healthy seas if we want to avert the ongoing climate and environmental crises – both of which threaten our own survival. The European Commission and national governments need to ensure  adequate protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in line with the EU’s target to protect and  effectively manage 30% of our seas. This target represents a significant increase from the 11% that is currently protected and therefore requires a strong commitment on all fronts”.

Jonathan Bonadio, policy officer for renewable energy and grids at the EEB, said, “The full decarbonisation of Europe’s energy mix doesn’t need to come at the expense of our seas. The Commission may be overestimating the amount of energy power needed in the coming years. Our own energy projections estimate that 150 GW of offshore wind capacity would be enough to achieve climate neutrality by 2040, if other measures are also put in place. This is half of what the European Commission expects by 2050 in its strategy.”

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