The Belgian government has announced the tender criteria for future wind farms in the Princess Elisabeth Zone, which include citizen participation, a move welcomed by renewable energy co-operatives.
Announced by energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten on 21 April, the tender conditions will be laid down in a royal decree.
One stakeholders set to benefit from this announcement is Seacoop, a Belgian co-operative social enterprise founded by 33 renewable energy citizen co-operatives, all of which are members of REScoop Flanders or REScoop Wallonia, a federation of 20 renewable energy co-ops.
“This is the first time in Europe, if not the world, that a government is encouraging citizen participation in large offshore wind farms through renewable energy communities,” Seacoop said in a statement.
According to Seacoop, in 2022 alone more than 100,000 citizens who were members of renewable energy communities in Belgium were able to save hundreds of euros on their annual electricity bill.
Seacoop enables local co-operatives and their members to co-invest in offshore wind turbines and gain direct access to the energy produced there. They plan to invest €445m in future North Sea wind farms, take 20% ownership of the wind farms and supply 20% of the electricity to citizens.
Seacoop is working with co-operative electricity suppliers Ecopower and Cociter on the practical arrangements for acquiring this electricity and supplying it to the co-operatives. The co-op says that securing supply contracts and managing such volumes of electricity remains a challenge, but is committed to meeting it.
The co-op plans a national communication campaign in 2027 to invite citizens to join one of the 34 local co-ops to participate in this initiative.
The Belgian government’s announcement came ahead of the North Sea Summit, held on 24 April in Ostend, Belgium. Nine countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway and the UK) along with the president of the European Commission attended the summit, which concluded with the adoption of the Ostend Declaration – commitment to deliver cross-border projects and anchor the renewable offshore industry in Europe.
As part of this, they set offshore wind targets of 120 GW by 2030 and 300 GW by 2050 in the North Seas, from 30 GW presently.