A "jack-up vessel" installs the final blade on a wind turbine in the Block Island Wind Farm. Deepwater Wind
A Block Island wind farm.

Connecticut is preparing to go big on offshore wind – or maybe not-so-big. Recently, the Energy and Technology Committee agreed to hear testimony on a bill that would require Connecticut to procure at least 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030. At a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in New London this week, a room full of regional business leaders applauded when State Sen. Paul Formica, the committee’s ranking Republican, announced the move.

Such a mandate would mirror similar actions taken by other states throughout the region. Massachusetts was the first to pass legislation mandating 1,600 MW of offshore wind by 2027, and last year authorized another 1,600 MW. Gov.Andrew Cuomo last month nearly quadrupled his previous commitment by declaring that New York will purchase 9,000 MW of offshore wind energy by 2035. Altogether, states along the eastern seaboard have committed to more than 16,000 MW of offshore wind.

Two days after the November election, Gov. Ned Lamont traveled to New London to meet with business and community leaders, signaling that his administration will give significant priority to economic development in the region.

The governor’s transition policy platform included a bold vision for putting the state on a path to 100 percent renewable energy and being carbon neutral by 2050. Expanding offshore wind development beyond the state’s initial purchases of 300 MW was highlighted as a key strategy for achieving those ambitious goals, and the transition’s energy policy committee recommended a 2,000 MW mandate. That strategy neatly aligned with the governor’s pledge to support economic development in southeastern Connecticut.

A series of recent events have cleared the path for that strategy to be implemented. The Connecticut Port Authority announced the selection of a new terminal operator for the State Pier and then negotiated an agreement with the City of New London to share some of the economic benefits. Last week, Eversource announced that it had purchased a 50 percent stake in Orsted US Offshore Wind, further solidifying the industry’s ties to the state.

Unfortunately, the administration is now signaling that it may not support the legislation raised by the Energy and Technology Committee. It seems that the administration only wants to commit to 1,000 MW by 2030.

Remember that Connecticut purchased 300 MW of offshore wind in the last year. We know that this industry will see exponential growth in the coming decade, and we know that the price of offshore wind energy will continue to come down. So, it is difficult to imagine any scenario in which Connecticut does not procure another 700 MW of offshore wind by 2030. It’s going to happen – whether the Lamont administration takes any action or not.

So calling for 1,000 MW of offshore wind by 2030 is not leadership; it’s just trying to take credit for what’s going to happen anyway. And if that’s the limited size of our ambition, then we can be pretty confident that most of the jobs to produce that energy will be in somebody else’s backyard because most of the onshore investment will happen in states with much bigger commitments.

Furthermore, when Millstone’s second reactor retires in 2035 or before, we won’t have enough offshore wind capacity to replace it with renewable energy. And we won’t have the onshore supply chain economic activity to replace those lost Millstone jobs in southeastern Connecticut.

So if 1,000 MW is the only commitment this administration is prepared to make, perhaps the governor shouldn’t talk about offshore wind at all. It would be better to focus on areas where his administration is prepared to provide some real leadership and actually make a material difference in the outcome.

The good news is that if the administration will just stay out of the way, we have legislators from both sides of the aisle ready to work with a growing statewide coalition of labor, religious, environmental, business and community groups and pass a mandate for 2,000 MW by 2030. Doing so will send a strong message to offshore wind developers that Connecticut has a higher ambition and is serious about becoming a regional hub for this emerging industry.

We’ve got the ports and related transportation infrastructure to facilitate the development of a thriving network of supply chain activities all along the coast and along inland waterways and rail lines. We’ve got business leaders and manufacturers eager to expand operations and build new facilities. And whether it’s on the docks, in the water or on the factory floor, we also have the skilled labor to make it all happen.

What’s needed now is strong leadership and vision.

John Humphries is executive director/lead organizer for the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs  and serves on the Governor’s Council on Climate Change. Chris Bachant is business agent/organizer for New England Regional Council of Carpenters, Local 326.

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2 Comments

  1. Title seems misleading. CT can never “lead the way” lacking deep water offshore. At best it can purchase some wind power from Rhode Island. Possibly erect some windmills in the mountains.
    For the foreseeable future CT purchases power from fossil future sources with some from Canada’s hydro sources. And remains one of the nation’s high cost electric States. In a State lacking major industry that’s not a major handicap. NY has major access to Canada’s hydro power and Mass. will be the regions major wind power source State.

  2. This is a tricky issue from one perspective: economic impact and job creation. Massachusetts, which has a thriving economy, will capture most of the benefits of the offshore wind initiative; Connecticut, whose economy has been shrinking (measured in real terms) for a decade, will get a small share of the benefits–some additional jobs through supply chain activities (while the offshore work is in progress, not so much after than). There won’t be any savings apparently in terms of energy costs (CT actually uses energy very efficiently, so when correctly measured as cost per unit of output rather than cost per kilowatt, CT is about 50% more efficient than the national average), so the only real benefit is addressing the challenges of climate change. That is a worthwhile goal, but let’s not overstate the benefits to Connecticut of supporting offshore wind development.

    I would feel better about this initiative if CT had a coherent economic development strategy that would restore its vitality. It doesn’t, so supporting Massachusetts’ growth & job creation is a bit unsettling.

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