BOSTON (SHNS) – With a long-term hope of having all of the roughly 6.7 million houses in New England powered by energy from offshore wind, a new coalition launched Wednesday to promote the benefits of the energy source in the region and to push its six states to collaborate and better support a shared vision.
About 40 environmental advocacy groups, research institutes, business alliances and more from the region have banded together to form New England for Offshore Wind. The group argued that a regional approach to offshore wind is best for ratepayers, workers and the environment in New England, which shares a regional power grid.
“Regional collaboration is a necessary precondition for attaining New England’s potential as an offshore wind leader,” Susannah Hatch, clean energy coalition director for the Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM), said. “The New England for Offshore Wind coalition members are proud of the early individual state procurements in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and we also see clearly that deeper regional collaboration will unlock economies of scale, accelerate development and improve project outcomes across the six-state grid we share.”
A report this year from the American Wind Energy Association found that the offshore wind sector could employ more than 80,000 people from North Carolina to Maine by 2030, and lead to $25 billion in annual economic output. The Vineyard Wind I project, which is in line to be the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm, is projected to generate at least 3,600 jobs and reduce costs for Massachusetts ratepayers by an estimated $1.4 billion.
The group, which loosely formed as a coalition to submit testimony months ago, formally marked its launch Wednesday by sending a letter to all six New England governors — Gov. Charlie Baker, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, Maine Gov. Janet Mills, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott — urging them to issue a joint resolution “in support of creating a shared vision and driving regional collaboration on offshore wind,” Hatch said.
“Offshore wind is the single biggest lever we can pull to reduce our emissions, address the climate crisis, meet our energy needs, and grow our economy simultaneously,” she said. Hatch added, “We aim to drive governors and legislatures to support regional collaboration and more offshore wind procurements, building the political will to power every home in New England with offshore wind. We also aim to build public support to enable offshore wind projects to come online in a timely and responsible manner.”
In Massachusetts, the Baker administration and utilities have contracted with two developers — Vineyard Wind and Mayflower Wind — to generate a cumulative 1,600 megawatts of clean energy from wind farms planned for waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. If both projects come to fruition as expected, state officials have said they would provide “approximately 12 percent of total Massachusetts annual energy demand.”
On top of a 2016 clean energy law that mandated the procurement of 1,600 MW of renewable offshore wind power, a 2018 law authorized the procurement of an additional 1,600 MW. Late last month, the Senate unanimously adopted an amendment to its economic development bill to direct the Baker administration to procure another 2,800 MW of offshore wind power by 2035, which would bring the state’s total authorization to 6 gigawatts. The House unanimously agreed to a climate bill amendment to up the mandated amount of offshore wind power the state and utilities must contract for to 3,600 MW and also to shorten the maximum amount of time between procurements from 24 months to 18 months. Both amendments are now subject to conference committee negotiations.
On a webpage specific to Massachusetts, New England for Offshore Wind pointed out that Baker signed a pledge during his 2018 re-election campaign promising to fulfill the requirements of the 2016 clean energy law, complete a study on additional procurements, and to “explore the possibility of developing a joint offshore wind power procurement with other New England states.” So far, Baker and his administration have lived up to the first two parts of the pledge.
The new group also supports a bill (H 2920) filed last year by Rep. David Rogers to direct the Department of Energy Resources to determine the feasibility of creating multi-state offshore wind solicitation and procurement agreements in conjunction with Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The bill, which was co-sponsored by 46 other lawmakers, was sent to a study by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy in February.
By partnering with other states for solicitations and procurements, Massachusetts could “take advantage of economies of scale and seek new offshore wind projects that will provide economic benefits here and in the region” and the collaboration could “encourage new cooperative and cost-saving approaches to build more offshore wind,” ELM said in a fact sheet on the bill.
Though the Rogers bill is listed on the group’s website as one option for Baker to fulfill the third and final point of his 2018 pledge, New England for Offshore Wind said the six New England states can collaborate without going in on a procurement together.
“We aren’t necessarily advocating for explicitly cooperative procurements, but we do believe strongly that improved coordination and collaboration between our states, as well as higher procurement targets, will drive economies of scale that support planning and good outcomes across a range of regional challenges including transmission, workforce development … equity, cost, orphan infrastructure and more,” Hatch said.
There is already some interstate collaboration. Last year, at New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s request, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management formed the Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, a group that brings together energy and environmental officials from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts to start thinking about how, where and whether the federal government should open up parts of the Gulf of Maine to offshore wind development.
In addition to ELM, the coalition also includes the Alliance for Business Leadership, the National Wildlife Federation, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Tufts University, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Vermont Natural Resources Council, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters and more.