The North Sea region, located in the northwest of Europe, is expected to be a frontrunner in the European energy transition. In terms of population, it contains around 200 million inhabitants. The aggregated GDP of the North Sea region countries adds up to 9.6 billion euros, which accounts for 60% of the GDP of the EU. In contrast, in terms of land this region represents only the 15% of the EU surface.  

The North Sea region countries, in line with recent EU level policies, such as the Green Deal, have set ambitious decarbonisation targets, aiming to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. In the last two decades (Fig.1) the region has substantially reduce its aggregated COemissions, at a pace of around 10% reduction per decade. In order to meet the 2050 targets this pace needs to be further increased, and extra mitigation efforts need to be applied to both energy related and non-energy related sectors. 

Figure 1: Total GHG emissions in the NSR from 1990 to 2018, excluding LULUCF and international aviation

Figure 1: Total GHG emissions in the NSR from 1990 to 2018, excluding LULUCF and international aviation

There are many aspects in the North Sea region that might compromise the net-zero ambitions of the North Sea region. To name a few, the energy intensity of the region is extremely high, with multiple industrial clusters and heavily populated areas, whose energy demand is expected to increase in the following years. Additionally, the high population density of the region limits the available space to deploy low carbon energy sources, such as onshore wind and solar PV. Finally, the North Sea, which is expected to harbour large amounts of offshore wind, is an extremely busy area, with multiple coexisting activities, such as fisheries, shipping, sand extraction or recreation areas.

By Rafael Martinez Gordon – email:

Energy system models are useful tools to understand how future energy system models might behave, to analyse optimal system configurations and to draw transition pathways towards a highly decarbonised future. The goal of my PhD is to develop energy modelling tools that can be useful to understand the energy transition in the North Sea region. Among many others, there are three capabilities that can be considered the backbone of the energy system model to be delivered within the ENSYSTRA project:

  1. Include the particular spatial constraints of the North Sea, one of the busiest regions of the world, with multiple competing activities [1].
  2. Cover all the sectors of the energy system, in order to include all the emissions of the region and the possible interactions between them.
  3. Release the model data and code under an open-access license, so every interested user can replicate or further develop the results and insights.

Being part of the ENSYSTRA consortium has been so far an amazing opportunity to get direct feedback from many academic and industrial experts, and to have access to up-to-date data and methodologies. If you are interested on the energy model release and different North Sea region scenario analyses stay tuned, we will start sharing all these outputs during the following months after the closure of the ENSYSTRA project.


[1] Martínez-Gordón R, Morales-España G, Sijm J, Faaij APC. A review of the role of spatial resolution in energy systems modelling: Lessons learned and applicability to the North Sea region. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 2021;141.

If you have any questions of queries, please direct them to the author Rafael Martinez Gordonor the ENSYSTRA Project Manager Dirk Kuiken or Deborah Groeneweg.

If you are interested in the specifics of the 15 research projects, you can find summaries and video explanations from the researchers here.

Our project is supported by 23 industry partner institutions.

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