The North Sea Commission President and Secretariat attended a series of meetings in Brussels 21st and 22nd April arranged by CPMR on the theme of maritime industries and marine renewable energies. The meetings were well attended by CPMR members and geographical commissions.

Sustainable use of the sea preoccupies all CPMR members. The CPMR Secretariat is collecting input in support of a cross-cutting industrial strategy from their members. The strategy will help regions find solutions and investments in their prioritised areas. Maritime regions are facing global industrial competition and there is a need to diversify in order to create jobs in the maritime and peripheral regions of Europe.

The meetings conveyed a clear message, first to the commission and then to members of the Seas, Rivers, Islands and Coastal Areas Intergroup of the Parliament,arguing for a strategy on maritime industries and marine renewables that is cross-sector and integrated. The strategy would have an overall policy objective that is at once maritime, industrial and energy-related, while combating climate change and achieving the transition to greener energy. Sectors such as clean shipping, shipbuilding, ocean energies and marine renewables were highlighted including the need to create climate for investments for the private sector and to secure education, with enhanced skills at the centre of maritime professions.

NSC President Tom-Christer Nilsen gave a North Sea perspective on energy opportunities and the possibilities within technology transfer from oil and gas to renewable energy. The North Sea is a power house in Europe. Europe had 90 % of the global offshore wind production in 2012. 80 % of that production was North Sea based, according to the European Wind Energy Association. The Scottish regions and islands priorities further underlined the wave and tidal potential as well as the need for interconnectors in the north sea.

Interconnectors are vital in order to realise the energy union and to unlock the North Sea renewable energy potential. The North Sea Commission would like to see an integrated North Sea grid, literally linking the states together. The message was strongly supported by the Scottish MEP Ian Duncan. “It is time to create a North Sea grid. Whether it be to provide greater energy security, to address the challenge of climate change or simply to reduce the price consumers pay to light and heat their homes or companies pay to conduct their business, the time is now”.

Vice President Kerstin Brunnström represented the Swedish region of Vastra Gøtaland at the event and told the participants about the Swedish maritime strategy which will be ready by the summer. Key sectors inthe maritime industry sector include brine technology, ship building and offshore wind power. Vastra Gøtaland uses a triple helix cluster model for the maritime sector with 6 priority areas, including marine energy (wind and wave and maritime operations or infrastructure)

The North Sea Commission President was then part of a round-table discussion at the European Parliament where he was able to put forward a strong case for building the North Sea Grid. He argued that the initial cost will be high and therefore we need leadership in order to take the first step for interconnectivity. The grid will also reduce the need for production so electricity companies have an interest not to build the grid or give strong incentives to build interconnectors. Our role is to push further. The energy and grid questions needs a pan-European approach – what shall EU build and where?

The two day event also provided opportunities to discuss with the European Commission about funding opportunities for maritime industries, as well as CPMR thematic group meetings on blue biotechnologies, fisheries& aquaculture, maritime spatial planning and tourism.

The main conclusions pointed to a need to create a climate for investments in order to create the competitive and clean industries we need.