The European Wind Energy Association is enthusiastic about what this could mean for the development of wind in the EU. In 2012 offshore wind totalled 5 GW in the EU and this is projected to rise to 40 GW employing 170,000 people by 2020, and to 150 GW employing 300,000 people by 2030.
But offshore wind energy is often caught between conflicting uses and rules from different sectors which can create project uncertainty and delays, impairing the sector's potential for growth - risks that could rise without effective maritime spatial planning as offshore wind energy grows.
The Directive should benefit the entire maritime economy by helping Member States to achieve well planned use of the sea for activities such as energy, transport, fisheries, leisure and environmental protection.
"The European Wind Energy Association strongly supports the Commission's proposal, which will allow the European offshore wind energy sector to plan investments based on a mapped use of sea space, creating growth and jobs in the maritime sector," said Anne-Bénédicte Genachte, Offshore Regulatory Affairs Advisor for the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).
"It will also facilitate the creation of a transnational European offshore electricity grid by encouraging Member States to map areas for electricity infrastructure at sea," she added. If planned without cross-border cooperation, grid investments risk being less effective. The Offshore Grid project calculated that by clustering wind farms in hubs which could cross borders, around 14 billion Euros could be saved compared to connecting wind farms individually to the shore.
"The ball is now in the hands of the European Parliament and Member States, and unfortunately some big Member States are already voicing opposition. We hope that governments will understand the importance of having an EU planning framework for the growth of the maritime economy and we hope to count on Parliament in order to get the directive adopted before the European elections in 2014."
Read an EWEA position paper here.