Major “Blue Economy” Funding Commitments Announced By U.S. and Norway

Floating offshore wind turbine Photo: Greentech Media

Yesterday at the Our Ocean Conference in Norway, the U.S. government announced a series of 23 actions it will undertake to promote sustainable fisheries, combat marine debris, and support marine science, observation, and exploration — together they are valued at $1.21 billion dollars.  The Prime Minister of Norway came to the conference and announced that her government will give $253 million to the state energy company Equinor to develop the largest floating offshore wind farm in the world to date. 

Why This Matters:  The U.S. announcement certainly is big — but the projects were not clearly spelled out in the government’s press release — and the devil could be in the details since they were couched as enhancing the “blue economy.” We hope that when more details are available, these projects will put as much emphasis on sustainability as on development. And because accountability is a major component of the Our Ocean conference, the U.S. will have a hard time backing away from spending the dollars committed.  Norway’s floating wind power project will make a substantial contribution to offshore wind development everywhere — and the government’s grant to Equinor will ensure that the power produced is affordable.   

Commitments and Accountability

According to the State Department, cumulatively, from 2014 to present, the United States has made 113 commitments valued at over 4.3 billion dollars.

Notably, the U.S. did not announce any new areas of marine protection — which is not surprising given the Trump administration’s desire to drill for oil and gas off the coast of Alaska and even off the coast in the lower 48.  Marine Protected Area (MPA) commitments, however, continue to be a big focus of commitments by many other nations.  And an analysis by Dr. Jane Lubchenco and researchers at Oregon State University shows that these MPA commitments have largely been kept.  Dr. Lubchenco said she was “blown away” by their findings — that of the 288 MPA creations or expansions announced in the first five conferences, 57% have already been completed and are now protected by the laws of the nation in which they are located.

Floating Wind Turbines

Ironically, the electricity produced by Norway’s floating wind turbines will be used to provide 30% of the power for their offshore oil and gas operations.  The Prime Minister said yesterday that she hoped that the offshore wind project will be less controversial in Norway than wind turbines on land — she recently had to back away from a large land-side wind development plan because of local objections to developing them in scenic and indigenous areas.  She expressed her belief that floating wind turbines are the future of wind power for both Norway and the world.  The current project plan is for 11 turbines in the North Sea with a total capacity of 88 megawatts. The technology isn’t profitable yet without subsidies and the government agreed in August to contribute the $253 million (USD) — no more than 50% of the total cost. The turbines will begin producing electricity at the end of 2022.

This coverage of the Our Ocean Conference was made possible by the support of Ocean Conservancy.  

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