There are two sides to every story. We wrote in a recent article about the potential problems that President Trump’s protectionist policies could pose for the nascent US offshore wind sector.
We maintain it’ll be vital for the US to learn from firms in Europe and Asia about how to keep down the cost of offshore wind farms.
But as Jatin Sharma, president at GCube Insurance Services, said on our LinkedIn post about that article, there would also be benefits to policies that help US firms to share the financial success of the industry. He wrote: “US offshore needs to find a balance between LCOE and the political buy-in needed to help it flourish.”
In other words, there’s a place for some protectionism, as long as it doesn’t do major damage to the economic case for offshore wind. If people can see there are financial benefits of offshore wind for them and their families, they’re more likely to support it. This can help to reinvigorate communities, with cities such as Grimsby and Hull in the UK embracing offshore wind for that reason.
It’s with this in mind that we were interested to hear this week about the plan for the Offshore Wind Jobs & Opportunity Act in the US – but, rather than a standalone bill, it would require an amendment to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. You can find out more about the technical details of the proposal here.
In summary, Democrat members of Congress in Arizona and Massachusetts introduced this legislation in a bid to help workers adapt to the growth of US offshore wind.
They propose to do this by offering grants to governments, unions and universities to help people re-train; with a focus on displaced workers from the offshore oil and gas, onshore fossil fuel, nuclear and fishing industries. It would also support other groups including military veterans. All of these groups could bring useful skills.
Massachusetts Congressman Bill Keating used the launch of the plan to blast repeated attacks on wind by the Trump administration. He said: “Despite this administration’s attacks on clean energy, there are plenty of hard-working Americans who are ready, willing and able to train in the wind industry… [This] legislation will help us meet our goal of ensuring that we have a well-trained, local workforce ready on day one.”
The plan’s other supporters include the American Wind Energy Association, National Wildlife Federation, the Utility Workers Union of Americas, and United Steelworkers.
No doubt it would be welcomed by companies in the sector as well. For turbine makers such as General Electric, MHI Vestas and Siemens Gamesa, it would give them access to a pool of skilled offshore wind workers. This will be important when they decide whether to invest in new factories to build their platforms in the US.
And it should open opportunities for specialists in Europe and Asia to help provide training. Where better to get offshore wind expertise than from the markets with most practical experience?
So what happens next? Well, the bill was introduced on 14 March by Massachusetts Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, and it still needs to be considered in the US House of Representatives by the Committee on Natural Resources and the Committee on the Education of the Workforce.
If it passes that there it could be considered by the full House, and would need approval from the House, Senate and president.
There’s a long way to go. But, as the US offshore wind sector seeks to make friends, it feels like a road worth taking. After all, nobody can object to job creation, right?
You can hear more from Jatin Sharma and a host of other North American wind industry experts at our Financing Wind New York conference, in association with GCube Insurance Services, on 30thMay. Check out the full details here: www.financingwind.com
Four Republican congressmen have called for a halt to US offshore wind projects because of unsubstantiated claims blaming the industry for whale deaths. But this obvious misinformation can still be a threat for the growth of the industry.