Offshore wind tracts leased in New England and the mid-Atlantic. U.S. Department of the Interior

New England is uniquely positioned to solve one of the greatest energy concerns of our time.  

Our overreliance on natural gas, which still supplies around half of the region’s current electricity needs, exposes our grid to reliability risks and exposes ratepayers to extreme price volatility. Pair those risks and volatility with the projected demand increase from electrifying cars and buildings to meet state climate objectives, and the need to bring more clean energy to Connecticut becomes clear. 

Offshore wind is an ideal solution. Alongside other renewables, it will help New England states decarbonize their energy sectors and stabilize energy costs. Recognizing offshore wind’s economic and environmental value, the states have come together to seek federal funding for grid infrastructure that will deliver energy from prospective offshore wind projects to the region’s power grid. 

Together, the states have proposed a Joint State Innovation Partnership for Offshore Wind to select cost-effective, environmentally friendly and equitable regional transmission solutions. Their plan would include development of a networked offshore grid that allows projects to connect to the power grid through a common cable system instead of building standalone transmission for each project. And that system could grow to become a networked, interregional transmission system for the East Coast. 

The Innovation Partnership is an incredible opportunity to reduce the number of cables needed to send offshore wind to the power grid, thereby materially reducing the impacts of infrastructure on marine life, ecosystems and people, while saving millions for ratepayers and creating high-quality jobs. 

To realize those benefits, the states should issue a joint solicitation for the procurement of transmission solutions, as set out in their Innovation Partnership proposal, now — before projects are set in stone. There should also be a transparent plan for this solicitation process, including public comment opportunities and proactive outreach to potentially impacted communities early in the process, when alternatives are still being considered.

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Connecticut was a leading partner in developing the grid innovation proposal and bringing the states together to submit a funding application to the U.S. Department of Energy. The state should continue that leadership and call for a joint solicitation to ensure there is no delay in planning should the federal government award funding for the states’ proposal. 

Connecticut has worked hard to secure clean generation resources. Proactive planning and investment in a regional transmission system to distribute those resources is just as critical to meeting the state’s legally mandated climate targets. And together, the New England states can champion a networked offshore system that will deliver the benefits of clean wind power to all our communities for decades to come. 

Charles Rothenberger is the Climate and Energy Attorney for Save the Sound.