Leaders from North Sea and North Sea-adjacent countries are meeting for a summit at the port of Ostend on the Belgian coast today to coordinate their actions to combat dependence on Russian gas and fossil fuels – mainly by expanding offshore wind farms in the North Sea.

It is a follow-up to the first North Sea Summit held in Esbjerg, Denmark, in May of last year, shortly after the outbreak of the Ukraine war. There, Denmark, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands – the EU countries with North Sea coastlines – established the “North Sea Coalition” and committed to quadrupling their combined offshore power generation capacity to 150GW by 2025. This is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 150 million European households, and would make the North Sea the largest renewable energy area in Europe. Denmark has been active recently in establishing energy leadership in Europe’s northern seas, also convening a Baltic Sea Energy Security Summit last August where leaders from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden signed the ‘Marienborg Declaration‘, setting a goal of increasing offshore wind energy capacity by 700% within eight years.

That might seem like a lot, but it is starting from a very low base in the Baltic Sea. There is much more offshore wind energy already deployed in the North Sea, and today’s summit will focus on maintaining what is already there while expanding even further. For the second summit, two non-EU countries on the North Sea – Norway and the UK – have been invited along with three EU countries without North Sea coastlines – Ireland, Luxembourg and France. That makes it the largest-ever coalition around energy in the North Sea. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will attend the summit this afternoon after meeting with leaders in Oslo, Norway – underscoring the importance of cooperation among the EU and non-EU countries on the North Sea. The leaders will also be discussing the question of the safety and security of offshore energy infrastructure and the cables that connect them, following new revelations of Russian attempts at sabotage from the main Nordic broadcasters last week in a documentary called The Shadow War. According to the documentary, Russian reconnaissance ships have pretended to be fishing boats and scientific vessels to map the North Sea’s wind turbines and gas pipelines. The purpose of their exploratory work, the documentary says, is to prepare for immediate acts of sabotage if war breaks out between Russia and Nato – specifically, to cut energy supplies to western Europe and cause panic.