By Howard Kosel and Clarke Bruno
Article originally appears on Long Island Business News, February 14, 2018
The recent release of the Cuomo Administration’s Offshore Wind Master Plan is an extraordinary achievement for Long Island, New York State, and the United States. The Plan builds on 20 studies conducted over the last two years and its attention to detail and focus on execution demonstrate that the governor has the vision and commitment to bring this industry to New York. If implemented with the focus on building the right offshore wind transmission, the plan will protect Long Island’s environment, transform the state’s electricity industry and vault New York into a leadership role in the emerging 21st century energy economy.
As Germany and other countries have shown, a large and growing offshore wind economy can produce large amounts of renewable energy at affordable prices and produce jobs and private investment for long-term economic growth. We can do the same – and the plan defines how in three key pieces:
Scale is first: Were the 2400 MW of offshore wind here today, New York would rank third in the world, behind only the United Kingdom and Germany. This scale is the most important ingredient in securing the local investments in jobs, factories, and ports. Without this commitment to scale, Long Island and the rest of the state would be doomed to remain dependent on the capabilities and infrastructure of other states or countries.
Investing now in a transmission system to meet the State’s ultimate offshore wind goals will serve as a signal to the industry that New York is serious about creating this new industry.
Timing is second: Other states in the northeast are focused on developing offshore wind: Massachusetts has a 1600 MW goal and has already issued a procurement for 200 to 800 MW of offshore wind. New Jersey’s newly elected Gov. Murphy wants to build an initial 1100 MW and 3500 MW by 2030, almost 50 percent more than New York’s target. These states’ goals are a threat and an opportunity: should they move faster than New York, they can lay claim to be the home to the entire offshore wind industry. However, if New York moves first, it will attract more of the manufacturing centers, testing facilities, installation ships, and investments in ports. Moving first at scale has outsized advantages.
Execution is third: Much of the Master Plan is focused on implementation, including permitting, financing, ownership structure and grid design with an initial procurement for wind in the last three months of 2018. This focus on detail is almost unheard of in a government document and the starkest possible evidence that the commitment is real and that the global offshore wind industry should pay heed.
New York’s ability to execute on such an important commitment will be measured in relation to its neighbors. In the coming months, Massachusetts will be the first to award large contracts to offshore wind developers. New Jersey will set out to meet a larger offshore wind target than New York. New York’s advantage should be in superior execution.
The Massachusetts initiative lacks a coherent plan like that New York has just published, and suffers from a tendency to let the incumbent utilities dominate the process. New Jersey’s plan is large and bold, but NJ is early in its process and hasn’t yet paid attention to details or laid out a strategy for execution, which are so visible in New York’s plan.
Finally, the hallmark of a great offshore wind program is that it leads the industry away from the need for subsidies. In Europe, several countries have reached this important milestone and they did it by designing the right offshore transmission infrastructure. New York’s Master Plan for offshore wind hints at this outcome, but it should be an integral part of the plan.
To make that happen, generators cannot be given the right to build transmission just for their projects. While the first project may be “bundled” with transmission in order to get things started, the ultimate plan should be for a master transmission system that optimizes the offshore grid to seamlessly integrate with the existing onshore grid. Only such a master transmission plan can make a commitment to 2400MW – and more — of offshore wind affordable and practical.
Kosel and Bruno are partners in Anbaric, an energy infrastructure development company. Kosel has worked for 36 years in the electricity business on Long Island. Prior to Anbaric, Bruno was energy counsel to N.J. Gov. Corzine.