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A Renewed Focus on the American Clean Energy Economy

Medium Tuesday, September 28th 2021

Advancing innovative technologies that lower our carbon footprint while simultaneously growing the global economy in a just and sustainable way is no small task — it requires meaningful collaboration between all stakeholders.

Fortunately, this essential concept permeated the Dynamo Energy Hub event — A Renewed Focus on the Clean Energy Economy. This event brought together offshore wind sector leaders and influential policy experts who discussed the unique opportunity provided by offshore wind development to decarbonize the grid, revitalize coastal economies, and engage communities in a just transition.

The event began with opening remarks from Pamela Venzke, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Ørsted Offshore NA. Instead of being deterred by the fact that the time to cut carbon emissions is fading, Venzke uses it as a motivator to radically transition to a clean energy economy quickly and efficiently.

“Getting to a clean energy future is entirely possible, but it requires a renewed focus. We must transform the ways in which we generate the energy to lead our daily lives.” — Pamela Venzke, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Ørsted Offshore NA

Transitioning to a sustainable, renewable energy sector will not only have lasting favorable impacts on the environment, but it will also have transformative impacts on the way people live. However, ensuring a just transition takes collaboration across every sector of the energy industry. Part of that cooperation will come from policy; fortunately, the Biden Administration is not only setting ambitious goals but is actively taking steps to attain them.

After Ms. Venzke concluded her remarks, she handed the program to Amanda Lefton, Director of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), who delivered a keynote address and provided an update on the Biden Administration’s offshore wind policies and progress to-date; Director Lefton began her remarks noting while our country faces a multitude of interlocking challenge — such as a racial injustice, economic uncertainty, a global pandemic, and a climate crisis — prioritizing renewable offshore wind development in the U.S. will inevitably help quell these pressing and systemic issues. However, offshore wind positively impacting communities and creating jobs is only possible through a collaborative approach.

Director Lefton concluded her keynote address perfectly when she stated:

“Climate change poses an existential threat to all of us and the time to act is now. Transitioning to clean energy will be critical to help the U.S. tackle this issue. Offshore renewable wind energy can help communities be a part of the climate solution by providing clean energy and job creation, particularly in underserved communities. But the full environmental and economic benefits of offshore wind can only be realized if we all come together to ensure that all potential development is considered and advanced responsibly.” — Amanda Lefton, Director of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)

After the Director Lefton’s keynote speech, the event moved to a moderated Q&A with Director Lefton.

Left to right: Meade Harris (Dynamo), Amanda Lefton (BOEM)

During the Q&A, Director Lefton addressed the biggest challenges for BOEM achieving the 30 by 30 goal. Director Lefton commented how transmission is going to be a major constraint. However, sufficient interconnection and onshore transition as well as a planned offshore grid would help overcome this hurdle.

Another limiting factor to overcome in reaching the 30 by 30 goal is the lack of an existing supply chain in the U.S. The easily stated albeit vastly intensive solution is to simply build one. However, to assure a durable and sustainable U. S. supply chain infrastructure, developers must make the necessary investments.

Lastly, Director Lefton noted while process is a challenge BOEM has to overcome, it’s also tremendously beneficial. Improving processes to be more streamlined, thorough, reliable, and efficient will strengthen industry trust and certainty while simultaneously allowing BOEM to review projects and bids at a faster pace. Standardizing process also allows for greater engagement of all stakeholders.

The next question centered around what actions can be taken to ensure that the Biden Administration’s offshore wind priorities remain part of the long-term solution in the renewable energy transition. While offshore wind projects from start to finish take a fair amount of time, Director Lefton commented on how gaining momentum is a great way to safeguard these projects as lasting investments.

A prominent theme woven into Director Lefton’s remarks was that offshore wind is a market that encapsulates strong collaboration between all stakeholders. The event then transitioned to a panel discussion, which included a diverse panel of stakeholders within the offshore wind market and was a prime example of partnerships in action.

From top left to right: Allison Ziogas (Ørsted), Congressman Norcross (NJ-01), David Hardy (Ørsted Offshore North America), Brent Booker (NABTU), Lee Laurendeau (EEW Group)

Panel moderator Allison Ziogas, U.S. Labor Relations Manager at Ørsted, began the discussion by noting that while climate change is a tremendously daunting task to tackle it is also biggest economic opportunity of the century. Transitioning to a green economy, both at the speed and scale that science demands, means transforming how society is powered. The conversation amongst the panelists began by each commenting on the key factors that will best enable offshore wind development.

Congressman Norcross, NJ-01, noted the gravity of policy, pointing to how the building blocks for clean energy are contained within the physical bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better plan.

Though David Hardy, CEO at Ørsted Offshore North America, acknowledged the importance of policy, reaching the Administration’s 30 by 30 goal will require the industry’s help. Hardy is encouraged by current policy and believes Congressional action through these two bills can go a long way to facilitate industry growth and expansion. He noted the bills contain tax incentives giving the industry and developers confidence that investing in offshore wind projects is not capricious but instead intentional.

Agreeing with the importance of industry, Brent Booker, Secretary-Treasurer at NABTU, stressed the role of unions in reaching carbon neutrality goals. Booker echoed Hardy’s comments around policy sparking transformation, especially around Congress’s role of strengthening unions through labor protections and registered apprenticeship programs and attaching labor standards to long-term tax credits.

Lee Laurendeau, CEO of American Offshore Structures at EEW Group, stressed how tax incentives help the supply chain by creating the necessary technology to scale offshore wind projects.

Throughout each answer, every panelist noted that reaching carbon goals and transitioning to a renewable, green economy means collaboration across the sector. The conversation then centered around questions focusing on how we can ensure a just transition during the offshore wind and renewable energy sector transformation.

Booker commented that to ensure a just transition, the American worker needs to be at the center of the conversation when it comes to offshore wind agreements. Union workers want to be part of the solution — it’s up to the industry to give them the ability to work.

“As we tackle climate change and transition into renewables, we need to ensure workers have good paying wages, healthcare, and pensions. Prior to offshore wind, unions and labor workers haven’t been able to point to an industry that has put the American worker at the forefront of the conversation.” — Brent Booker, Secretary-Treasurer of North America’s Building Trades Unions

Hardy pointed to agreements like Ørsted’s national offshore wind agreement and associated local project labor agreements as being a critical tool to ensure a just transition; he summarized the relationship between offshore wind and a just transition best when he said:

“The opportunity that offshore wind brings is not only about green energy, the environment, and staving off the climate disaster but also creates an opportunity to make an American industry, create middle class jobs, and a platform to have a just transition.” David Hardy, CEO of Ørsted Offshore North America

However, in order to ensure a just transition, the job opportunities must be available in the U.S. in the first place; one way to do this is to build out a domestic supply chain. Laurendeau chimed in to discuss the incentives and proposals that compelled EEW to bring his facility to New Jersey. While there are many factors that incentivize investment in supply chain facilities and technology, predictability there will be a marketplace trumps all other factors.

“Predictability is incredibly important to help manage domestic supply chain risk; if you’re going to do a major investment, the question becomes is there predictability that the wind industry is truly going to flourish and will there be a marketplace.” — Lee Laurendeau, CEO of EEW American Offshore Structures Inc.

But even with assurance that the wind industry will flourish, establishing and expanding a domestic supply chain is no small feat. Adapting to a rapidly evolving industry means addressing technical challenges and scaling projects all while simultaneously chasing the technology curve — such dealing with the increasing dimensions of monopiles.

Quickly meeting production and supply market and user needs in the U.S. while concurrently playing catch up with Europe and collapsing 30 years of costs quicky requires sources of funding — particularly with help from state and federal governments. These funding sources and investments will not only facilitate predictability in the market and cut the cost curve but also allow the market to get to grid parity quickly.

Given the inevitable reliance on government aid to incentivize projects, Ziogas led the discussion towards what the Administration can do to ensure the supply chain meets state and federal goals in order to efficiently execute the expansion of offshore winds.

The main response? Assure predictability.

Administrative policies will only be as helpful and useful as they are predictable. The desire for consistency spanned across every aspect of the offshore wind implementation process.

Examples of desired predictability ranged from both the internal Administration side — such as creating a more streamline, thorough, and concise permitting process — to the implementation and labor side, as the union sector wants to rely on a steady stream of projects that funnel workers from their skills trainings to directly to well paying, middle-class jobs.

Congressman Norcross wonderfully brought the conversation full circle by tying back how the role of policy investing in the clean energy and offshore wind supply chain creates predictability.

“Bringing the supply chain back to the United States gives us stability and predictability that the infrastructure development products will be readily available when we need them.” Congressman Norcross, NJ-01

Committing to a green and sustainable economy starts with policy makers laying out a vision in which the industry can begin to build a foundation.

While accelerating the clean and renewable markets is undoubtedly exciting, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. As we collectively work towards a clean energy future and determine the long-term viability of sustainable solutions, we must ensure we do this right.

“There’s a long road to haul here, but through our commitments to communities, our commitments to good paying jobs, and a commitment to a healthy environment…a robust clean economy [is] a reality.” Allison Ziogas, U.S. Labor Relations Manager at Ørsted

Offshore wind will undoubtably be an increasingly larger portion of the clean energy transition, but it’ll only be as successful as the cooperation between organizations and policy.

Having honest, open, transparent, and often difficult conversations means bringing the right stakeholders to the table -which is what Dynamo does best. Achieving ambitious goals will take collaboration and cooperation across all sectors of the energy economy — Dynamo is equipped to facilitate those dialogues, break technology silos, and spark innovative conversations to achieve our ambitious goals.


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