The Senior Vice-President for North Sea Renewables at Equinor talks to Pamela Largue about the importance of collaboration, offshore and onshore.
“It’s just completely mind-blowing,” says Trine Borum Bojsen.
What has blown the mind of the new Senior Vice-President of North Sea Renewables at energy giant Equinor is the significant progress – in relatively little time – of the wind industry.
“When I started working with offshore wind, it was a niche industry – 50 people sitting in the corner of a company that was very big and working with a lot of conventional energy. “However, it’s moved from that niche to being fully commercialised and even more competitive than other energy sources within a decade or 15 years.”
Bojsen joined Equinor in May having worked most of her career in offshore wind. She has a background in engineering, with hydrodynamics as her speciality.
So, having established that the history of offshore wind has been short but impressive, how does she see its future? “The market will mature, focusing more on energy systems bundling different solutions together.”
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She explains: “In the old days, we would connect a cable from a wind farm to shore and sell the electrons. But electrons alone will not solve our decarbonisation issues. Some industries need other solutions, which is where hydrogen or power-to-x solutions will come into play. The offshore wind industry needs to embrace that as well.”
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Equinor has embraced the potential of the North Sea for decades, so how does Bojsen see those waters developing? “The role of the North Sea is substantial: the region provides the largest supply of energy to the UK as well as to a number of other European countries.
“In the North Sea, there are a lot of oil and gas competencies, but also beautiful wind – it has some of the best resources. There’s a lot of potential in the region with many countries in the North Sea region. I believe we will see many exciting projects in the future.”
“Developers are also tapping into the huge potential for floating wind, going into deeper waters where fixed bottom solutions are no longer feasible.”
Equinor already operates Hywind Scotland, the first commercial floating wind farm in the world, and Bojsen says the company is “also constructing another floating wind farm, Hywind Tampen, in Norway, which is allowing us to obtain a lot of experience in floating wind, specifically in the North Sea”.
For an industry that has made fast progress in the last decade, it is ironic that time is now the enemy of further offshore wind growth.
“We see governments wanting to build more offshore wind which is needed for the climate change agenda; however, discussions across countries take a while,” says Bojsen. “It takes a long time to develop a project and to mature the technological solution. Delays are also related to permitting, consenting and fitting into the frameworks that are set by the governments.”
All of which means, she stresses, that “as an industry, it is important to speed up those regulatory consenting processes for each project”.
“If we want to increase the volume and scale, we need to secure a healthy and sustainable supply chain that can deliver. Of course, we also need to build out the grid. If we want to send power from a power hub in Europe to other parts of Europe, we need to have stronger infrastructure to do that.
“Some of these are easier fixes. Some take longer with more political decisions needed to make them happen.” And some – if not all – take significant investment. How does she believe greater private sector participation can be developed?
“The private sector will play an increasingly prominent role because as we move into new territory, we’re looking for new technology solutions – and this is what the private sector is skilled at.
“This has been proven through the development of offshore wind, from a niche industry to fully commercial and competitive. However, cooperation is critical and will release the industry’s potential.”
One way to do that, she says is to “create opportunities for broader energy solutions, such as tenders that focus on offshore wind but include an option to add hydrogen solutions or batteries. We need to see more of these bundles of energy solutions”.
She emphasises that “private and public sectors need to work closely together”, yet cautions that “it can be complex – but we shouldn’t overcomplicate it”.
“Many governments are already good at involving the private sector in different market dialogues or consultations on regulatory frameworks to make sure that they get it right. This is helpful and a valuable kind of engagement.”
Talking of collaboration, when does she think we will see countries uniting their efforts to develop energy infrastructure? “We have seen several EU countries coming together to form statements around what to do in the North Sea and what grid developments are needed.
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“If you want to import and export between countries, whether electrons or something like hydrogen, you need to reinforce the grid and ensure the necessary infrastructure. This calls for the cooperation between countries.
“Energy islands and interconnectors are currently being discussed in Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands. They all have this element of connecting countries that produce in the North Sea. “We will see more of this kind of cooperation, which is important to ensure the fast build out that we need.”
Bojsen acknowledges that Equinor’s shift into renewables has been eased considerably by its oil and gas heritage. “The 50 years of experience with oil and gas provides many transferable skills. There’s so much knowledge and insight in working with huge, challenging projects offshore. This valuable competence and skills can be brought almost directly into offshore wind.
“To deliver on the renewable ambitions, we need all competencies. Every time we post a position in renewables, we are happy to see oil and gas people apply – it’s a straightforward transfer of competencies.”