The year 2022 was full of events that are permanently changing the conditions for the offshore wind industry. We asked industry leaders and key policy-makers for their assessment of what has been achieved in the past year and what the forecasts are for 2023. In today’s interview of the „Baltic Sea Offshore Wind – 2022 Summary & 2023 Outlook” series, we present the opinion of Lasma Livzeniece, Executive Director of the Latvian Wind Energy Association. 

The most important developments and achievements for the offshore wind industry in 2022

The offshore wind energy sector in Latvia is premature. But a few things have happened this year. Firstly, the Ministry of Economics identified a need for a new legislative framework for offshore wind tendering. In light of the pre-election time, the industry saw an attempt by the bureaucrats to quickly push through low-quality amendments to an existing offshore legislation. It made us very worried, as the amendments were discriminatory towards most foreign offshore players, nor was the proposed tendering process clear. With a joint effort by the association and the Latvian Competition Board, the draft amendments were halted and sent back to the Ministry of Economics for reworking. While this is good news for the wind industry, we do feel uneasy about the same Ministry continuing the work on the legal framework for the offshore tendering. What we hope for is that the entire offshore legislation prep-work will soon be transferred to the new Ministry of Energy and Climate which is being set up now.

In parallel of the processes on a governmental level, the Latvian Wind Energy Association has established an offshore working group together with its offshore members. The group has met several times to work out through discussions a tendering model that is suitable for Latvia from the perspective of the industry but also considers the individual characteristics of the Latvian offshore scene. We hope to present it to the policy makers in early 2023.

Another important momentum in the offshore sector should be named the significant progress with the cross-border offshore project “ELWIND”. The management on the Latvian side has officially shifted from the Ministry of Economics to the Latvian Investment and Development Agency. Finally, the project has a clear coordinator on our side. Along with this news also came the announcement of the ELWIND sites. Latvia’s portion of the ELWIND wind farm area is located in the Kurzeme region, between Liepaja and Ventspils, while the Estonians have assigned the area just off the coast of the island of Saaremaa.

An important challenge for offshore wind development in 2023 and area of focus in 2023

It’s clear that Latvia needs a legal framework in which the offshore sites can be tendered out. And we as the association together with our members will provide help to the Ministry responsible for this matter.

But even more important issue is the grid. The Baltic Sea holds enormous offshore wind potential – up to 93 GW. This makes the Baltic region strategically important for the long-term decarbonisation of Europe and gives Latvia and other Baltic states the opportunity to play a significant role in speeding up the green transformation of Europe’s energy system (REPowerEU). Latvia alone could have 14.5 GW installed by 2050, given that new interconnections are built. Without new interconnections, offshore wind energy deployments are limited to 3-5 GW. Massive investments into building new interconnectors and upgrading the existing electricity transmission system are needed.

Along with new interconnections, a hydrogen strategy must be developed. The first step was taken in November when an MoU between various stakeholders and the government was signed establishing a hydrogen alliance that will work towards enabling the developments and implementation of hydrogen technologies. This will definitely be a focus area also for the Latvian Wind Energy Association and its members.

To bring the focus on the grid issues and the need for a hydrogen network, the Latvian Wind Energy Association together with its partners is organising the 3rd edition of the WindWorks conference on 19 April 2023. The overarching topic is the interconnectivity of the Baltic Sea region and its integration with the continental Europe. Mark your agendas to visit Riga when it’s springtime!