Originally published by Union of Concerned Scientists, The Equation.
By Paula GarcÃa, Senior Bilingual Energy Analyst
The offshore wind industry has grown steadily in recent years. A few years ago a speaker at an offshore wind conference highlighted how difficult it is to keep up with the latest developments in the industry. By this point, the needs of offshore wind states had grown from 15,000 megawatts (MW) to 20,000 MW in just five months. Today, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the industry has more than 35,000 MW in various stages of development, and the Biden administration has set itself the goal of deploying 30,000 MW of offshore wind power. ‘by 2030.
The question should no longer be whether offshore wind can play a key role in meeting the electricity needs of US coastal cities while cleaning up the electricity sector, but rather how to ensure that the transition to offshore wind is fair.
As we try to recover from the worst impacts of the pandemic, we must remember that a disproportionate number of Blacks, Latinxes and Indigenous people have died from COVID-19 due to systemic socio-economic inequities that include a disproportionate exposure to air pollution from fossil fuels which increases their risk. These impacts are another reason to move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
In this transition away from fossil fuels, however, the urgency of climate and public health crises should not justify perpetuating historic inequities in the energy realm in the name of reduced emissions from heat trapping or purification. air. The deployment of offshore wind power in the United States represents a unique opportunity to right long-standing wrongs as we act on the climate, rebuild our economy and confront systemic racism in our daily lives.
Here are three essential opportunities for the equitable deployment of offshore wind:
Offshore wind should ensure a just transition for workers
- Diversified workforce: Renewable energy is still a young industry, and it is essential that its workforce represent the communities it must serve. Data from the Solar Foundation revealed that women make up only 30%, Latinx workers less than 20%, Asian workers 9%, and black workers only 8% of the solar workforce. As the industry takes off, initiatives to ensure a diverse offshore wind workforce are needed more than ever.
- Labour Standards : Quality, well-paying jobs should be the norm in the developing US offshore wind industry. The Draft Labor Agreement (PLA) signed in July by Vineyard Wind and the Southeastern Massachusetts Building Trades Council, and the agreement signed in September by Dominion Energy, the North American building trades unions and their subsidiary of ‘State Virginia Building Trades, serve as examples of how industry can adopt labor standards.
Offshore wind should prioritize engagement with marginalized communities
- Native American communities: The oil and gas industry has set a precarious precedent by repeatedly disrespecting the sacred land of Indigenous peoples. The first attempt to build offshore wind turbines in the United States, which began 20 years ago, only exacerbated tensions between the energy industry and indigenous communities. Properly involving Native American communities is essential to understand how to best advance offshore wind in relation to native lands and natural resources.
- Environmental Justice Groups (EJs): Representation of the environmental justice community in decision-making is a cornerstone to ensure that issues such as electricity affordability, location, workforce and port development are informed by stakeholders. people who are likely to be the most affected. For example, efforts are underway to remove a long-standing âprice capâ for new offshore wind projects. While a cap can help incent companies to build projects for Massachusetts, it is essential to ensure that the energy burden on low- to moderate-income households is not exacerbated by such decisions. According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), the national average energy load (the share of income that goes to cover energy costs) for low-income households is 8.6 percent, almost three times higher than for non-low income households, which is estimated at 3 percent.
Sustainable port initiatives should advance green energy hubs
- Electrification of ports and clean trucks: Groups like UPROSE in New York have advocated for green industrial development in their neighborhoods to create well-paying jobs and reduce air pollution. We must match the promise of offshore wind to reduce air pollution from power plants with a commitment to develop this industry without exacerbating other air pollution.
Offshore wind represents a unique opportunity. The essential question facing this new technology should not be so much how to advance offshore wind, but how to ensure a fair transition to this exciting new source of energy.
Do you appreciate the originality of CleanTechnica? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Tech or Ambassador – or Patreon Patron.