Our Turn: New Hampshire should embrace an offshore wind future

Published: 5/14/2021 8:00:12 AM

The recent celebration of Earth Day provided an opportunity to reflect upon how to build a stronger economic future for New Hampshire’s citizens based on a clean energy future. The solutions to the crises of mass unemployment and economic inequality can play a key role in protecting New Hampshire communities from the threat of rising seas, droughts and extreme weather caused by climate change. Time is up to take bold and direct action on climate change, and all of society must be marshalled to meet the challenge of our age. We must seize the opportunity and create a more hopeful future.

Developing offshore wind will move New England off fossil fuels while strengthening our regional economy, protecting ratepayers, creating prevailing wage jobs and improving public health by reducing carbon pollution.

Other nations around the globe have proven that offshore wind can meet the need for clean and reliable energy generation while at the same time protecting biodiversity and ocean species. It is now time for New Hampshire to join this effort to create jobs and to lead the clean energy revolution.

The Biden Administration plans to deploy 30 GW (30,000 MW) of offshore wind by 2030 with a $12 billion dollar investment in projects on both U.S. coasts. This unprecedented effort will be shared by the U.S. Departments of Interior, Energy and Commerce, generating enough power to meet the demand of more than 10 million homes while creating tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs, with more than 44,000 workers employed in offshore wind by 2030 and nearly 33,000 additional jobs in communities supported by offshore wind activity.

Offshore wind development is already happening in New England. Rhode Island hosts the nation’s first offshore wind farm, and the final approval of the Vineyard Wind project located off the waters of Martha’s Vineyard has been announced by the Biden Administration, providing power to 400,000 homes by 2023. The Vineyard Wind project, the nation’s first large scale offshore wind installation, is a practical example of the promise that offshore wind represents for the nation and the New England region for climate action, innovation and economic development.

While the Sununu administration has expressed support for offshore wind development, progress has been slow in supporting the needed procurements of clean energy resources, and New Hampshire is falling behind. States up and down the eastern seaboard have been aggressively procuring thousands of megawatts of offshore wind, while New Hampshire has done nothing. The failure to do so is a missed opportunity.

One example of New Hampshire’s missed opportunities is with SB 151 to procure thousands of megawatts of clean energy, including offshore wind for NH ratepayers. SB 151 initially received almost unanimous support in the state senate, only to be retained by the Senate Finance Committee, meaning that the proposal will not move forward this year. While other states move to put out the welcome mat for a new and growing industry, New Hampshire continues to send signals that we aren’t open for business.

Amid all of the hopeful news around the development of offshore wind in our region, New Hampshire risks being left further behind unless legislative and policy decisions are made in the very near future regarding offshore wind development and procurement.

As is unfortunately often the case, New Hampshire policymakers continue to cede leadership to other states to support energy efficiency measures, renewable energy generation and R&D for energy innovation. New Hampshire policymakers must stop making poor choices that harm our ratepayers and instead invest in economic development and job creation for our citizens by moving towards a clean energy economy.

The demand for clean energy will continue to grow exponentially. Offshore wind is best positioned to lead the way, but New Hampshire policymakers, community leaders and citizens must act.

Is the Granite State ready to collaborate with leaders across New England to build the future, or will we be bystanders that will regret our lack of action? The choice may seem obvious, but leadership is required to make the right choices and make them now.

(Lila Kohrman-Glaser is Co-Director of 350 NH. Rob Werner is the New Hampshire State Director of the League of Conservation Voters.)

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