Massive investment in port infrastructure critical to support green transition

Ports are central to the green transition. However, ports need to be upgraded in the coming years to support the planned annual installation of 800 offshore wind turbines in Europe until 2030. Otherwise, they risk becoming bottlenecks, a new report reveals. Port Esbjerg has already invested massively, but further investment is needed to meet the demand. “We’re in the right place at the right time, but we need to have the courage to grab this opportunity with both hands”, says Port Esbjerg CEO Dennis Jul Pedersen. 

Once upon a time, the commodities transported from Port of Esbjerg were meat and butter. Then followed fish. Then came oil, and now it is wind turbines.

Port Esbjerg is no stranger to transitions, and the port’s transition continues. The future renewable energy strategy places huge demands on ports.

For several years, Port Esbjerg has therefore carried out measures to upscale the port to accommodate the green transition.

Over the coming five years, Europe will expand the installation of offshore wind turbines from 400 to 800 annually until 2030. And the turbines are getting bigger and bigger.

Therefore, Port Esbjerg is currently preparing for a 500,000 sqm expansion. Larger cranes are also needed to handle the bigger turbine components. A deeper fairway is to be dug by 2025 to accommodate larger vessels. And the quay areas are being reinforced to cope with the heavier loads.

As Europe transitions its energy supply to wind and other renewable sources, Europe’s ports will be required to change gears, and quickly.

WindEurope recently published its 2030 vision for European offshore wind ports, and its conclusion is clear. A greater number of larger wind turbines require larger and more flexible infrastructure. According to WindEurope’s forecast, European ports need to invest more than EUR 6.5 billion to support this demand.

“It’s an enormous amount, and no ports are prepared for the transition that’s about to happen. Yet. Components are getting bigger and heavier, and volumes will double in the coming years,” explains Port Esbjerg CEO Dennis Jul Pedersen.

  In 2030, the number of sea windmills will be more than doubled.
 

Esbjerg needs to pick up the pace

Six in ten European offshore wind turbines are shipped from the Port of Esbjerg. It is therefore obvious that Port Esbjerg plays a key role in achieving the EU’s ambition of installing offshore wind turbines with a combined capacity of 60 GW by 2030 and 300 GW by 2050.

In 2020, there were 5,400 offshore wind turbines in Europe. In just nine years, in 2030, the number of offshore wind turbines will have grown to 12,000 – the vast majority of which will be in the North Sea.

“It would be appropriate, but not a given, that Port Esbjerg will take part in the transition, which has only just begun. We’re about to see a major ramp-up. Everything has to be scaled up, and we need to pick up the pace, if we want to stay in the game,” explains Jul Pedersen.

As the largest offshore wind port in Europe, Jul Pedersen sees Port Esbjerg as key to the success of EU’s ambitious goal.

“We’ve got a special responsibility, and we’re mindful of this. We’re more experienced than any other port, and we’re scalable. We simply have to be able to deliver,” he says.

According to Jul Pedersen, European ports currently have enough capacity, but within two years, we will see bottlenecks if action is not taken today.

“The situation is as WindEurope writes: Massive investment is needed all over Europe,” says Jul Pedersen.

 Ports play an importan role in the shipping of sea wind. 

All companies, large and small, have to invest

Port Esbjerg will be making major infrastructure investments, but companies based in the port also need to invest to stay in the game. The industry needs to raise the stakes, too.

“The port isn’t alone in this. If companies want to be relevant when the time comes, they need to be ready to take in a lot of orders. Playing for such high stakes isn’t necessarily comfortable, but it is necessary,” explains Jul Pedersen.

Predicting the capacity challenges ahead, Port Esbjerg already applied for a port expansion five years ago. The environmental impact assessment is only just being finalised. The long processing time is one of the challenges to the rapid expansion required around Europe.

“We very much hope to get the green light for the expansion this year. If not, we risk losing out. It’s fortunate that we were so far-sighted five years ago and got the process started,” comments Jul Pedersen.

 One example of a green initative from Port Esbjerg is direct access to the electricity grid so that ships can use green energy when in dock
 

Visit from the UK

Jul Pedersen feels confident about the expansion of port capacity around Europe due to the political focus on the necessity of acting quickly:

“I just spent most of the day with the UK Minister for Energy, who visited us to gain inspiration as to how we’re to achieve our goal. There’s unprecedented focus on this at the highest political levels. Everyone wants to ensure the success of this project.”

All links in the value chain receive political support, so that no single link will become a bottleneck. Such as ports, for example.

“To get anywhere, all European ports will have to collaborate. Port Esbjerg, for example, has entered into a collaboration with Hull & Humber in the UK to share experiences. This type of collaboration is necessary, because everything has to be scaled up and sped up,” explains Jul Pedersen.

On the other hand, Dennis Jul Pedersen also believes that the offshore wind activities, which currently employ 4,000 people at Port Esbjerg, will have doubled in five years. Provided that the port expansion falls into place.

“At Port Esbjerg, we’re fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, but we need to have the courage to grab this opportunity with both hands. Not many are fortunate enough to get an opportunity like this. If we don’t succeed, it’ll be our own fault. The opportunity is there,” concludes Jul Pedersen.

  Most of Europe's sea wind is to be placed in the North Sea.
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