US Hits Pause Button on Oil & Gas Leasing, Doubles 2030 Offshore Wind Target

US President Joe Biden signed a new Executive Order on 27 January, directing the Department of the Interior to identify steps that can be taken to double offshore wind energy production by 2030 and to pause entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and in federal waters.

The Executive Order comes a week after Biden’s statement of acceptance of the Paris Agreement on 20 January, following the US exiting the Paris Agreement under the previous Administration. With the new order, Biden-Harris Administration aims to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and put the US on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050. 

“The order affirms that, in implementing – and building on – the Paris Agreement’s objectives, the United States will exercise its leadership to promote a significant increase in global ambition. It makes clear that both significant short-term global emission reductions and net zero global emissions by mid-century – or before – are required to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory”, the White House states in a press release.

The federal agencies are also directed to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and identify new opportunities in clean energy technologies and infrastructure.  The Department of Interior said that it would immediately begin a review of processes and procedures to date as it re-invests in a rigorous renewable energy program.

Commenting on the offshore wind target set by the new administration, Liz Burdock, president and CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, said: “President Biden’s actions today confirm the critical role that offshore wind energy will play in creating a clean U.S. energy grid and achieving White House commitments to combat climate change. His call to double offshore wind production in U.S. federal waters sends a clear signal of support to our industry, which will generate billions in new investments”.

“Over the next few years, the offshore wind industry will dramatically scale up development of the U.S. supply chain, growing tens of thousands of new jobs in the process. The offshore wind has been on the precipice of significant growth thanks to states’ bold leadership and President Biden’s executive order further pushes the industry to new heights with a new sense of urgency”, Liz Burdock said.

The US currently has two offshore wind farms up and running in its state and federal waters.

The country’s first offshore wind farm, the 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm, comprises five GE Haliade 6 MW wind turbines which have been in operation since December 2016.

The two-turbine, 12 MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) pilot project, the first wind farm installed in US federal waters, went into operation last year. The pilot project is expected to provide the operational, weather, and environmental experience needed for a 2.6 GW development in the adjacent 112,800-hectare lease site, expected to be operational by 2026.

Photo: Block Island Wind Farm. Source: Deepwater Wind (archive)