A Louisiana task force has unanimously approved a sweeping climate plan that proposes multiple measures including a goal of 5GW offshore wind development by 2035 to place the southern US state on a path to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.

The 177-page Louisiana Climate Action Plan sent earlier this week to governor John Bel Edwards for consideration sets interim goals in 2025 to cut emissions 26-28% and in 2030, a 40-50% reduction, from 2005 levels.

The plan contains 28 “high level” strategies and 84 actions to reduce carbon pollution across the state’s $260bn economy and avert the worst impacts from climate change.

“While creating consensus around these strategies was not always easy, they ultimately chose action over inaction,” said Bel Edwards, referring to the diverse 22-member task force he appointed in 2020 whose members include academics, climate activists, government officials, and industry leaders.

The task force will meet again in March to put implementation of the plan into gear, but modifications to the proposed strategies and actions are possible and how many will eventually take effect remains unclear.

While Bel Edwards could enact some through executive orders, others will likely require either new laws with enforcement mechanisms or regulations from the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The recommendations cover the clean energy transition, industrial decarbonisation, methane emissions, and five other areas such as accountability and adaptability to ensure the plan’s lasting success and environmental justice.

The plan also includes three priority policy pillars: renewable electricity generation, industrial electrification, and industrial fuel switching to low- and no-carbon hydrogen.

Louisiana’s emissions sourcing is different from most other US states in that industry generates 66% of the total, with transportation (19%) and electricity (13%) playing much lesser roles. That’s because of the dominant presence of chemicals, natural gas, and oil production and refining.

“This unique profile represents a significant challenge” for achieving the 2050 net-zero target, wrote the task force, adding industrial emissions will likely be the “most difficult” to abate.

Addressing the power sector, the plan urges 2030 targets to increase grid infrastructure by 30% and consider 1GW energy storage. It requests the PSC to “expeditiously” add renewable generation to the grid, make zero-carbon electricity more accessible to industrial facilities, and further review the cost-benefit of allowing deregulated power generation.

Gigascale offshore wind goal

By 2035, the plan proposes enactment of a 5GW offshore wind capacity goal. Louisiana should pursue offshore wind given the large resource in the Gulf of Mexico, its strong existing energy production, and the potential large economic development opportunity, according to the task force.

“This goal requires strategic collaboration across Louisiana state agencies and the federal government, transmission planning agencies, energy regulators, utilities, and the private sector to take additional steps to advance the development of offshore wind power generation,” wrote the plan’s authors.

To spur large-scale, responsible development, efforts should prioritise early and repeated stakeholder outreach, strategic planning for anticipated transmission and workforce needs, and improving the understanding of potential environmental and social impacts and opportunities to “avoid, address, or capitalise on them”, they added.

Louisiana has been a strong proponent of offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico and in late 2020 instigated the formation of the Gulf States Task Force, a coalition of state agencies and private companies aimed at jump starting offshore wind.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy (BOEM) is pushing the process for offshore wind lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, in January starting an environmental assessment of a vast area stretching from western Louisiana to the Texas-Mexico border.

Despite lower average wind speeds, the threat of hurricanes, and soft soils that prevent use of low-price monopile foundations, the area has garnered considerable interest from developers and industry associations, including Orsted, RWE, Mainstream Renewable Power, Avangrid, and EnBW.

Proximity to Louisiana's extensive oil & gas infrastructure is among the key attributes for the US Gulf, with comments on BOEM’s website flagging potential offshore wind-plus-hydrogen projects. Shell has expressed interest in both developing offshore wind in the reigon and participating in the Greater New Orleans Development Foundation's H2theFuture plan to decarbonise the south Louisiana industrial corridor using green hydrogen.

“We recommend BOEM, and Gulf States Task Force members, consider notable opportunities within a leasing program that can help to enable and accelerate technological innovation and create efficiencies for development and siting of integrated energy concepts,” James Cotter, vice president for wind development at Shell, commented.