Connecticut is a governor’s signature away from getting into the offshore wind game, catching up with neighboring states on what is widely considered to be one of the most promising renewable energy sources for the U.S.
With little debate, the Senate unanimously approved legislation, already passed in the House, that requires 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind – that’s roughly the same size as Millstone – by 2030, about the time the nuclear plant’s recently approved new contract runs out. But the 2,000 level is a maximum, not a minimum – which is how other states structure their mandates.
The initial solicitation process kicks off two weeks after the bill is signed – designed to also align with a solicitation already underway in Massachusetts with the goal of getting better pricing for both states.
The legislation comes after a few years of wrangling, in which the state has steadfastly declined to commit to an offshore wind mandate. In the meantime something of a can-you-top-this race for offshore wind went on among neighboring states, with New York embracing a 9,000-megawatt offshore wind commitment – with 18 initial bids for up to 1,200 megawatts now under consideration. Massachusetts has a 3,200-megawatt mandate with 800 megawatts already under contract and a call in recent days for another 1,600 megawatts. New Jersey is targeting 3,500 megawatts
Connecticut has accepted 300 megawatts so far, but there has been no requirement for offshore wind. Even without the recently announced plans for a $93-million redevelopment plan for the State Pier in New London to make it ready for offshore-wind, mandate proponents strategized for months on how to get a 2,000 megawatt requirement.
Massachusetts has been far ahead of Connecticut and other states in developing its on-shore component of offshore wind in an effort to capture the jobs and economic development that go with it. The big prize would be snagging the U.S. supply chain for offshore wind. Right now nearly all of it is in Europe.
By committing to serious wind procurement, Connecticut can now better compete for some of that economic development.
“Legislators are now sending a loud-and-clear message that our state is serious about securing a major share of this emerging industry,” John Humphries, executive director of the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs said in a statement. “The rapid transformation of the state’s interest in offshore wind development is good news for Connecticut’s workers and their communities because it can jumpstart the needed transition to a thriving clean energy economy.”
It puts Connecticut in a prime position, said Francis Pullaro, executive director of RENEW Northeast, in a statement. “For developers of offshore wind projects, this legislation sends a signal to invest in Connecticut and bring the benefits of affordable renewable energy development to the state.”
Emily Lewis, director of climate and energy analysis at Acadia Center, pointed to the environmental and climate change benefits. “Offshore wind is a critical piece of the puzzle to reducing emissions in the northeast, and Connecticut is now poised to join its neighbors in harnessing this resource and benefitting from growth of this new clean energy industry,” she said in a statement.
The state’s new Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Katie Dykes, was lukewarm on a mandate when she ran DEEP’s energy bureau and as the chair of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.
She came around as commissioner when details of timing were addressed, but still worried that 2,000 megawatts was too large a percentage of the state’s overall power needs. But she said she is aware that the timing was good – with turbines getting larger, more efficient and less expensive and federal tax credits due to run out at the end of the year.
In the end she said, “I’m pleased with this bill.”