European Leaders to Commit to More Wind Energy Production

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Nine Western European leaders on Monday are committing to ramp up the production of clean energy from wind turbines in the North Sea to both meet climate targets and reduce their strategic energy dependence on Russia.

The leaders will also seek to improve security around the growing underwater electricity grid so it cannot fall victim to hybrid threats. Fears of such attacks have increased since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year.

The leaders said in a joint op-ed contribution in Politico that they need more wind turbines and grid infrastructure "to reach our climate goals, and rid ourselves of Russian gas, ensuring a more secure and independent Europe."

To underscore their commitments, the Netherlands, Britain, Norway and the European Union all announced new projects to boost the production of such green energy and move toward greater strategic independence.

The summit in Belgium's North Sea port of Ostend is the second one to address the ever more pressing issue, and has expanded to take in nine leaders, from Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Britain, Ireland, Norway and Denmark.

"Europe must switch to green forms of energy faster. We are sending a strong signal about that at this summit," Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in a statement. "A green transition in the North Sea is an important step on the way toward independence from Russian gas and toward fulfilling our goal of a climate-neutral Europe."

The European Union has committed that 42.5% of total energy consumption should come from renewables by 2030, on the way to becoming a climate neutral bloc by 2050.

The meeting also has a strategic goal in that it wants to increase security around offshore wind farms and the underwater cable system to bring the energy to shore.

Last week, the public broadcasters of four Nordic countries said in a joint investigation that Russia is suspected of spying in the waters of the Baltic Sea and North Sea using civilian fishing trawlers, cargo ships and yachts.

In their common statement, the leaders said they will step up "efforts to react effectively to growing traditional and hybrid threats."