ELM Convenes Public and Private Sector to Discuss Offshore Wind

On a Wednesday morning in March of 2019, the Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM) was thinking about the offshore wind industry in 2029. That day, ELM held its two-panel “The Future of Offshore Wind” event, exploring the economic potentials of the six offshore leases awarded in the Northeast, including their energy production and carbon emissions reductions.

Moderated by ELM President Elizabeth Turnbull Henry, the event brought together industry leaders and public officials. The first panel, comprised of developers from Vineyard Wind, Ørsted, Equinor Wind US, and Mayflower Wind, were asked how they’ve seen the industry grow in the past decade.

“In 2015 there were no successful offshore wind projects,” said Matt Morrissey, Vice President, New England at Ørsted. “It wasn’t a healthy place to start an offshore wind company given how price-conscious the energy market was. It shouldn’t be understated how much the public officials and legislation in Massachusetts helped develop this market in the region.”

“There is a future here,” said Rachel Pachter, Vice President, Permitting Affairs at Vineyard Wind. “I started as an intern at Cape Wind and stayed until the funeral. So for the students in the audience, there is hope.”

Given how international the panel’s experience was, Henry asked what policies they’d like to see imported from another country that would benefit Massachusetts.

“I don’t know if there’s a specific policy,” said John Hartnett, Director at Mayflower Wind. “But getting a supply chain up and running, and making sure it’s stable so that investments can be made is paramount.”

The panel went on to explain that state goals need to be clear because there’s a balancing act between local economic development and keeping costs low. Without clear expectations of what the state wants, achieving that balance becomes much more difficult.

Between the panels, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker spoke on how vulnerability planning was shaping up for the future, noting that offshore wind was part of the equation. “Cape Wind was 18 cents a kilowatt with three percent inflators. What we have now is six cents a kilowatt with a flat rate. And you can see the difference because now Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey are getting involved because of that.”

The second panel, moderated by Jon Chesto of the Boston Globe, included Representative Tom Golden, Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy; Joe Martens, Director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance; Catherine Bowes, Program Director Offshore Wind at the National Wildlife Federation; Theodore Paradise, Senior VP of Transmission Strategy & Counsel at Anbaric; Bruce Carlisle, Senior Director Offshore Wind at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

Echoing the Governor’s statement, Chairman Golden mentioned that after Cape Wind, offshore wind was viewed as a gamble. “When Deepwater [Wind] came out with six cents  a kilowatt, the mood in the State House changed completely.”

One takeaway from the panel regarding the future of offshore wind in the region was to consider appropriate cross-state planning. “There needs to be collaboration between the states so that projects in one area don’t hinder opportunities in others,” said Catherine Bowes. “New England needs to speak with one voice.”

The panel went on to note that going slow with offshore wind isn’t inherently bad, but that new energy sources need to be ready when other facilities retire. Considerations on how offshore wind affects avian, mammal, and marine life, as well as what development means for the fishing industry, were also addressed.

The Environmental League of Massachusetts is a nonprofit educational and advocacy organization focusing their resources on the state level. ELM convenes leaders in business, government, and other environmental nonprofits to advocate for environmentally beneficial results.

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Brennan Molina

Brennan is NECEC's Membership Manager.