Analysing the North Sea Offshore Energy System in Light of the Energy Transition:

A Case Study Application of the Extended Multi-Level Perspective Framework

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The urgent need to address global warming and achieve the 1.5°C target set by the Paris Agreement necessitates an energy transition in Europe, with offshore wind energy in the North Sea playing a vital role. Despite the complexity of the North Sea's offshore energy system, the existing literature lacks a comprehensive study of the entire system, especially the crucial transmission aspects connecting onshore and offshore systems. This master thesis addresses this research gap by applying an Extended Multi-Level Perspective (E-MLP) framework to the North Sea offshore energy system.

The study begins with an analysis of actors involved in the energy transition, utilizing methods like social network analysis (SNA), PESTLE analysis, and scenario analysis. The focus is on the Dutch and German electricity transmission system operator, specifically its department Grid Field Operations - Offshore (GFO-O), to understand how E-MLP can enhance comprehension of the complex and dynamic nature of the North Sea offshore energy system.

Through a mixed method approach, combining MLP, actor analysis, SNA, PESTLE analysis, and Socio-Technical Scenarios, both qualitative and quantitative data were collected and applied to gain a holistic understanding of the system. The research reveals that the North Sea offshore energy system is heavily influenced by onshore developments, supply chain considerations, grid congestion, and demand flexibility. The use of artificial intelligence enables niche innovations, while the role of small nuclear reactors is limited. Offshore focuses on energy hubs, standardization, and wind park expansion, but moving further offshore increases vulnerability. The future role of hydrogen remains uncertain, and cybersecurity and multi-use of space are crucial factors.

The study offers recommendations for GFO-O to strengthen its position, attract digital talent, invest in AI capabilities, explore demand flexibility, and investigate green hydrogen production. Policymakers should prioritize multi-use of space and engage with the military to address security threats. Incentivizing demand flexibility at the consumer level can support renewable energy production and ease the offshore system's burden.

This research contributes to the field by applying the E-MLP framework to the North Sea offshore energy system, examining actor interactions, informal institutions, and providing valuable insights for scenario analysis. However, the study acknowledges potential limitations in data availability, interview perspectives, and social network analysis. Future research can delve into specific factors such as the offshore supply chain, explore heterogeneous analysis of the oil and gas sector, and apply E-MLP to other energy transition regimes, extending the study's impact and refining the framework's application.

In conclusion, this master thesis enhances the understanding of the North Sea offshore energy system and provides policy-relevant insights for inclusive policymaking, supporting Europe's energy transition efforts to combat global warming.