Biden-Harris Administration Announces Major Offshore Wind Policy Actions to Address Supply Chain and Transmission Constraints

Foley Hoag LLP - Energy & Climate Counsel

Foley Hoag LLP - Energy & Climate Counsel

The Biden-Harris Administration announced several major policy actions for offshore wind in the last week, including a new effort to strengthen regional collaboration and address high priority domestic supply chain gaps and a transmission strategy to unlock offshore wind resources in the Atlantic. These actions represent the latest steps by the Biden-Harris administration to drive long-term growth of the American offshore wind industry and “bring the nation’s first major offshore wind projects online in the near-term and achieve the goal of 30 gigawatts by 2030.”

While the announcement correctly notes that “American workers across manufacturing, shipbuilding, construction, and other sectors are building this new industry right now,” these new policy actions arrive at a time when offshore wind projects under development–both domestically and internationally–are facing economic pressures, supply chain constraints, and related deployment delays. Despite these challenges, offshore wind energy remains one of the most promising clean energy technologies globally, and these challenges are more likely to be overcome through the deployment of well-considered, long-term strategies and strong collaboration among federal and state governments and private industry.

East Coast Memorandum of Understanding on Offshore Wind Supply Chain Collaboration

Governors from nine East Coast states — including Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island — signed an MOU with the U.S. Departments of Energy, the Interior, Commerce, and Transportation to “support the development of a coordinated, resilient, and sustainable regional offshore wind supply chain” along the East Coast.

The MOU provides the baseline for an effort to strengthen collaboration among the signatory states and the federal government. The parties agree to “harness each other’s existing strengths, efficiently fill high-priority gaps, and advance economic development and environmental justice” to address national high priority offshore wind supply chain gaps. The MOU identifies several specific collaborative actions the parties will take, including exploring best practices for community benefits and engagement and developing a shared procurement and leasing timeline.

The MOU identifies three high-priority supply chain gaps: Jones Act-compliant vessels for offshore wind development; port development; and the expansion of U.S. steel production. The MOU also identifies other important gaps requiring collaboration in the near-term, including new and upgraded transmission infrastructure, development of a supply chain for offshore towers, and workforce development with a focus on diversity and union jobs.

The four federal agencies will provide technical support to enable collaboration, supply chain capacity, alignment of procurement and leasing timelines, and ultimately encourage investment in the various states to meet national offshore wind goals.

Atlantic Offshore Wind Transmission Action Plan

The U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior issued a transmission action plan to connect first generation offshore wind projects in the Atlantic to the electric grid and generally address transmission challenges to enable greater, cost-effective offshore wind development over the next several decades. The plan establishes near, mid-, and long-term steps for Federal, state, local governments, industry, and stakeholders to “collaborate across jurisdictions on transmission planning, technological development, economic support, and siting and permitting.”

In the near term, prior to 2030, the plan calls for the establishment of offshore wind transmission state collaboratives and regional transmission plan collaboratives, a systematic evaluation of potential points of interconnection and landfall locations, an assessment and further development of reliability standards for offshore wind transmission, multi-state partnerships for clean energy standards and offshore wind goals, and an issuance of one or more Requests for Competitive Interest by BOEM to solicit competitive interest for a right of way sale for the development of regional transmission systems.

Between 2030 and 2040, the plan anticipates that construction of interregional offshore transmission will be underway, that a national HVDC testing and certification center will be established, and that updates to transmission planning will be codified through regulated transmission planning, transfer capacity minimums, and market monitoring.

The Plan identifies several priorities for 2050 and beyond, including improved environmental review and permitting frameworks, modified cost allocation practices, the use of federally designated National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors, and international cooperation.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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