US State Setting Stage for Offshore Wind Auction

Dan McKee, the Governor of the US State of Rhode Island, has introduced legislation that would require a market-competitive procurement for approximately 600 MW of newly-developed offshore wind capacity.

The Block Island wind farm, Source: Orsted

If enacted, Rhode Island’s primary utility company would be required to issue the procurement no later than 15 August 2022.

Rhode Island is home to North America’s first operational offshore wind farm, Block Island and, in 2019, received state approval for the 400 MW Revolution Wind offshore project.

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This latest effort is in line with the 2021 Act on Climate, signed by the state’s Governor Dan McKee last April. The Act on Climate sets mandatory, enforceable climate emissions reduction goals culminating in net-zero economy-wide emissions by 2050.

”As home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm, Rhode Island is a pioneer in the blue economy,” said Governor McKee.

‘Offshore wind represents one of the best opportunities for Rhode Island to scale up its clean energy resources in order to meet our greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. Expanding our offshore wind resources will further our state’s position as the North American hub for industry activity, attracting new investment and job growth opportunities across the green economy.”

An additional 600 MW of offshore wind would further expand the state’s clean energy portfolio, with the potential to meet 30 per cent of Rhode Island’s estimated 2030 electricity demand. This is equivalent to powering roughly 340,000 homes each year.

Including the 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm and the planned 400 MW Revolution Wind project, offshore wind would cover 50 per cent of the state’s projected energy needs.

“The Ocean State is setting an example for the rest of the nation,” said Rhode Islands Lt. Governor Sabina Matos.

”Not only is offshore wind a reliable and renewable source of energy, not only is it a job developer for a 21st century global market, but more importantly, it sets our state on a path to a net-zero emission future.”

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The Governor’s proposed legislation (S-2583 and H-7971), sponsored by Senator Dawn Euer and Representative Arthur Handy, would also require offshore wind developers to provide information on potential environmental impacts through the submittal of an environmental and fisheries mitigation plan; estimates of local economic benefits; a diversity, equity and inclusion plan; and a plan outlining the bidder’s intentions with respect to the negotiation of a project labor agreement(s) to cover construction activities.

”What differentiates the Act on Climate from all of our state’s previous renewable energy laws is that it is an enforceable, firm commitment that Rhode Island will rapidly adopt renewable energy and get serious about our climate obligations,” said Senator Euer.

”Projects like the one we’re seeking with this legislation are an important part of our energy future. I’m glad to see the level of support there is for a major RFP like this one, because it will be a big step toward responsibly developed renewable energy in Rhode Island.”

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Any proposed offshore wind contract would require review by the Office of Energy Resources, the Department of Environmental Management, and Rhode Island Commerce in the form of agency advisory opinions. Such contracts would also have to be filed with the Public Utilities Commission for review and approval, including opportunities for public comment.

”We know from the Block Island Wind Farm that wind works well here, and provides savings for ratepayers,” said Representative Handy.

”As the Ocean State, we are experiencing the negative effects of rising seas, and we need to do our share to move away from carbon reliance. And producing our own green energy is vastly more beneficial to our own economy than relying on fossil fuels that are often sourced from other areas of the world, which can also be subject to volatility, as we are seeing in Europe right now. We can make great strides toward carbon neutrality with this sort of investment, and I’m excited to see it move forward.”

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