The US is emerging from the immediate Covid-19 crisis of the past two months, yet it is still unclear what the ‘new normal’ will be given the patchwork of local and state responses. One thing is clear, however: states will drive the reopening of the American economy just as they drive energy policy.
During the current stabilisation phase all businesses, not least the offshore wind sector, are figuring out how to operate. There are still a lot of unknowns. We must answer questions such as: H ow do you keep workers safe? Do you shift most of the workforce to telework? How do you work across multiple states with different requirements? States’ regional alliances are helpful, but it won’t be seamless.
In the midst of so much uncertainty, it is especially heartening to see much of the offshore wind site assessment, planning and permitting work progressing via remote working.
The Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project monopiles, towers, nacelles and blades are on vessels and on-schedule for installation. Dominion Energy says survey work is underway on the 2.6GW megaproject ensuring their federal construction operations plan (COP) submission remains on track.
Connecticut reports New London’s offshore wind port construction is moving forward. States are reaffirming their clean energy policy goals, providing offshore wind with reassurance and stability. During the crisis, Virginia increased their commitment to offshore wind and New York’s Public Utility Commission authorised the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to issue the state’s second solicitation, though this faces hurdles to proceed.
Yet the industry has not escaped Covid-19 unscathed. Orsted announced delays to project delivery times to almost 3GW of new developments off the Northeast US, and Equinor has said the virus has delayed key data collection activities using survey vessels working on its 816MW Empire State wind farm.
Despite these setbacks, the industry is still on track to deliver 4.5GW by 2025 and end to the decade with at least 10GW of offshore wind power installed. And we must maintain momentum.
As an industry, we must accept the new normal and adjust 2020-2021 expectations. We also need to recognise the opportunity emerging from the crisis. As EnBW North America CEO Bill White said in his presentation at the recent Virtual IPF 2020 recently, offshore wind is poised to be a big part of the economic recovery solution.
For this to happen, we need to ensure the Bureau Ocean Energy Management has resources to review and approve the seven COPs that have been submitted and several more that are anticipated.
We need to focus on port construction, which are the first sectors to re-open in the US, and a direct stimulus for Americans – getting them back to work quickly.
We must recognise states and localities are under tremendous cost-cutting pressure. We need to make it easier for them to maintain their support of clean energy commitments by driving down costs. Delivering on commitments solidifies bipartisan support.
We should continue to connect with one another. There are ways to do this, we just must be open to embracing technologies. You know, learn what the young kids are doing. We need to embrace online learning to help companies figure out where they can enter the supply chain and help the oil & gas industry diversify.
Finally, industry must think big and use our voice to offer bold stimulus programs to policymakers: port construction programs, job training, US vessel and manufacturing initiatives, floating wind and hydrogen demonstrations, robust R&D initiatives, and upgrading and developing comprehensive solutions to grid infrastructure bottlenecks.
In a recent report, the International Energy Agency stated plainly : “Governments should include clean energy at the heart of economic stimulus packages to ensure a green recovery.” We could not agree more. Now is the not the time to turn our back to the wind but instead turn into the opportunity for lift-off.
· Liz Burdock is the CEO of the US Business Network for Offshore Wind