Q4 review: US offshore wind challenges and opportunities

Over recent months, the US legislative situation affecting renewables has been evolving rapidly. We spoke to Anntonette Zembrzuska, JD, RPS’ new Director – North America Offshore Renewables, about the context in which renewables are developing in the US, and what this means for offshore wind in particular.

03 Nov 2022

QWhat sort of pressures do you see the US Government facing with regards to carbon reduction goals?

 

President Biden set tough targets in 2021: 50-52% reduction in US Greenhouse Gas pollution from 2005 levels by 2030, with the US aiming at 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035. The $437 billion Inflation Reduction Act (enacted August 16, 2022) includes a 10-year extension of existing tax credits for wind and solar, as well as provisions for heat pumps, rooftop solar and standalone energy storage such as batteries. Notably, the Inflation Reduction Act authorizes offshore renewable energy development in federal waters in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic off the coast of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida (areas previously off limits under a moratorium). The bill is the largest-ever commitment made by the US Government to address the climate crisis.

November 2022’s mid-term elections will have a big impact on our commitment to additional federal climate legislation in 2023 and beyond. Against this backdrop, it’s important to acknowledge the ambitious climate goals set by individual states, who are beginning the difficult process of figuring out how to achieve them.

Example: spotlight on New York’s Climate Act

New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) was signed into law in 2019. The Climate Act is among the most ambitious climate laws in the world and requires:

  • 85% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels
  • 40% reduction in emissions by 2030
  • 100% zero-emissions electricity by 2040
  • 70% renewable electricity by 2030
  • 9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035
  • 6,000 MW of distributed solar by 2025
  • 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030
  • 185 TBtu on-site energy savings by 2025
  • Commitments to climate justice and just transition of the workforce

New York’s Climate Act was passed without any additional funding. As New York considers how it will achieve the historic goals in its legislation, a significant question of how to pay for the clean energy transition will need to be addressed. Covering the cost of electrifying heat and transportation, while building massive amounts of new fossil-free electricity generation, storage and transmission infrastructure, is the most significant challenge as New York prepares to enact a new energy plan, regulations, and budget line items to achieve its climate goals. A study led by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability with two major energy companies estimates the price tag of decarbonizing New York to be approximately $1.5 trillion.

Note: If you are interested in preparing your employees for a just transition and a diversified energy portfolio, you can find tailored RPS training courses here.

QIs the situation between Russia and Ukraine having a major influence on the government’s plans for renewables, specifically offshore wind?

 

Much of Eastern Europe is no longer buying natural gas from Russia, and the US, as a net exporter of natural gas as LNG, is helping to fill that void. That makes natural gas supplies at home tighter for the upcoming winter, driving up price. Price hikes in the United States aren’t as severe as they are in Europe, but they are still significant. And that is a good reason for homeowners and businesses to consider moving away from natural gas for heat.

In the US, there was already a push to encourage consumers to decrease or modify their energy usage and towards the electrification of heat to reduce winter peak gas usage. The benefits of these strategies are myriad: lower costs to customers, reduced system costs to the utility, improved real estate values, reduced emissions, greater comfort, improved indoor air quality, etc. And the geopolitical situation in Europe demonstrates that electrification of heat benefits energy independence and national security, as well.

Of course, buildings electrifying their heating will place a greater demand on the electric system. Northern US electric systems tend to be summer peaking, so it will take many years for the winter heating load to overtake the summer cooling load. This gives the US time to build additional clean energy generation, such as offshore wind, to meet the growing demand. Offshore wind is an excellent source of generation for US coastal cities because wind farms can be built near major coastal urban centers, where half of all Americans reside. (Also, compared to onshore wind generation, the offshore wind resource is stronger, steadier, and more reliable.)

QIn a recent series of articles, our team have looked at why collaboration matters in bringing the offshore wind industry on globally. Why do you think working in collaboration with industry, government, universities, etc. is important to offshore wind in the US?

Related read: explore our offshore wind partnerships articles here.

Addressing climate change is an enormous challenge. Effective solutions will require fundamental changes in the way that people and businesses use energy, heat and cool their space, get from place to place, and do their jobs. As we decarbonize, almost every aspect of life as we know it will have to adapt. As I mentioned earlier, the price tag to enable the clean energy transition is enormous.

We need government to lead the way with goals, laws, and incentives that provide the right regulatory and economic situation for industry to want to invest in decarbonization projects. Government carrots and sticks are needed so industry is encouraged to think way beyond the next quarterly report and use its ingenuity to build new, clean technologies for the power, transportation, and building sectors, which make up the majority of our carbon emissions in the US. We need government and industry to support universities and trade schools to train (and retrain) the workforce needed to bring the clean energy economy to life. We also need government and industry to support critical research and development at universities, to broaden our current set of solutions and make them more efficient and affordable.

And we absolutely need individuals to adopt lower carbon technologies to heat and cool their buildings, for transportation, and for energy use in general. Too often, conversations about the solutions to climate change ignore individual responsibilities. Considering that buildings (the majority of those being residences) and transportation (a significant chunk of which is personal) make up over half of US carbon emissions, there is an essential role for each of us to play in the climate solution.

Anntonette’s part 2 article delves into the challenges around construction, compliance, infrastructure and staffing – and some potential solutions – occurring in the U.S. offshore wind industry. To read that article (or download a copy for later), click here.

Get in touch

Your contact information:

All fields are mandatory *

Get in touch

Your contact information:

All fields are mandatory *