The Land-based Wind Energy Report 2021 released by the U.S. Department of Energy states that wind power represented the largest source of U.S. electric-generating capacity additions in 2020 – constituting 42% of all new capacity additions, with the state of Texas maintaining its status as having the most wind energy capacity. A forecasted decrease in land-based wind installation for 2022 and 2023 is attributed to the scheduled expiration of federal tax credits and anticipated growth of offshore wind.
Health and climate benefits of Wind
In addition to providing statistics and analyzing trends, the Land-based Wind Energy Report 2021 states that “The health and climate benefits of wind are larger than its grid-system value, and the combination of all three far exceeds the levelized cost of wind. Wind reduces emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide, providing public health and climate benefits. Nationally, these benefits averaged $76/MWh. …… almost three times the average LCOE ” (which has fallen to around $33/MWh nationally).
A second new report from the U.S. Department of Energy is Offshore Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition , which provides detailed information about technology and market trends in the U.S. and globally. The report describes the status of over 200 global operating offshore wind energy projects through December 31, 2020, with an update about the most significant domestic developments and events from January 1, 2020, through May 31, 2021. It also describes projects in various stages of development – stating that global offshore wind energy deployment is expected to accelerate in the future, and citing a forecast by Bloomberg New Energy Finance of a seven-fold increase in global cumulative offshore wind capacity by 2030. In the U.S., the expansion and growth of the offshore wind energy market is primarily attributed to increasing state-level procurement targets in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, and growing infrastructure investments needed to keep pace with development. The Biden Administration’s national target goal of 30-GW-by-2030 goal is also noted (and is described in this White House Fact Sheet from March 2021). The report estimates that the average levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of fixed-bottom offshore wind energy installations is now below $95/megawatt-hour (MWh) globally –a decrease ranging from 28-51% between 2014 and 2020. The experts surveyed for the report predict LCOE levels of approximately $56/MWh by 2030, and a range of $44/MWh to $72/MWh by 2050.
On 9 September, the Global Wind Energy Council will provide more statistics, when it releases its third annual Global Offshore Wind Report 2021. In the September 3 press release announcing the GWEC 2nd Quarter Report, the Council observed “Overly complex and bureaucratic permitting procedures remain a critical market barrier, which creates high attrition rates for project applications and are slowing down wind power deployment in countries around the world, from Germany to India. To achieve our international climate targets, a sensible and positive regulatory environment needs to be in place to ensure successful procurement and smooth project timelines for both onshore and offshore wind.” In July, the Council and 25 wind energy company CEO’s sent an Open Letter to G20 Ministers, calling on them to “get serious” about wind energy, and citing the International Energy Agency (IEA) assessment that annual wind deployment must quadruple from 93 GW in 2020 to 390 GW in 2030 to meet a net zero by 2050 scenario.
A November 18 press release from the North America Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and Ørsted Offshore North America announces a “Landmark MOU for U.S. Offshore Wind Workforce Transition” , which “represents a transformative moment for organized labor and the clean energy industry. This framework sets a model for labor-management cooperation and workforce development in the budding offshore wind industry.”
According to the NABTU press release, “The partnership will create a national agreement designed to transition U.S. union construction workers into the offshore wind industry in collaboration with the leadership of the 14 U.S. NABTU affiliates and the AFL-CIO.” The newly-announced MOU is based on the model of an agreement developed by the Rhode Island Building Trades for the Block Island Wind Farm project – the first offshore wind installation in the U.S. which came online in December 2016, and is now operated by Ørsted .
No text of the new agreement is available yet, but the press release specifies:
“As part of this national framework, Ørsted, along with their partners, will work together with the building trades’ unions to identify the skills necessary to accelerate an offshore wind construction workforce. The groups will match those needs against the available workforce, timelines, scopes of work, and certification requirements to fulfill Ørsted’s pipeline of projects down the East Coast, creating expansive job opportunities in a brand-new American industry for years to come and raising economics for a just transition in the renewable sector…..Ørsted and NABTU, along with their affiliates and state and local councils, have agreed to work together on long-term strategic plans for the balanced and sustainable development of Ørsted’s offshore wind projects.”
North America’s Building Trades Unions is an alliance of 14 national and international unions in the building and construction industry that collectively represent over 3 million skilled craft professionals in the United States and Canada. Previous NABTU model national agreements are available here . Labour-affiliated BlueGreen Alliance issued a press release immediately, “lauding” the agreement between NABTU and Ørsted . BlueGreen is also a partner in New England for Offshore Wind , a civil society coalition which advocates for regional collaboration in New England, and urges state Governors to make commitments to power one-third of New England with offshore wind by 2022.
The Block Island Wind Farm has been described as “a case study in high-quality job creation” by the Center for American Progress in Offshore Wind Means Blue-Collar Jobs for Coastal States (April 2018). Massachusetts Offshore Wind Workforce Assessment,(2018) is a detailed study by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Centre, focusing on job-related issues, and highlighting the experience of Block Island.
The International Energy Agency released another of its flagship reports in November: Renewables 2020: Analysis and Forecast to 2025. This comprehensive report focuses in turn on each of: renewable electricity, renewable heat, solar pv, wind, Hydropower, bioenergy, CSP and geothermal, and transport bioenergy. Overall, the report forecasts global energy demand is set to decline by 5% in 2020, and although all other fuels will decline, overall renewable energy demand will increase by 1%, and renewables used for generating electricity will grow by almost 7% in 2020. The report provides statistics and comments on the impacts of Covid recovery policies.
Some highlights: “The renewables industry has adapted quickly to the challenges of the Covid crisis…. Supply chain disruptions and construction delays slowed the progress of renewable energy projects in the first six months of 2020. However, construction of plants and manufacturing activity ramped up again quickly, and logistical challenges have been mostly resolved with the easing of cross-border restrictions since mid-May.” As a result, the IEA has revised its May 2020 forecast of global renewable capacity additions upwards, and forecasts a record expansion of nearly 10% in 2021 for new renewable capacity, led by India and the EU. Other eye-catching statements: “ Solar PV and onshore wind are already the cheapest ways of adding new electricity-generating plants in most countries today… Overall, renewables are set to account for 95% of the net increase in global power capacity through 2025…..Total installed wind and solar PV capacity is on course to surpass natural gas in 2023 and coal in 2024. Solar PV alone accounts for 60% of all renewable capacity additions through 2025, and wind provides another 30%. Driven by further cost declines, annual offshore wind additions are set to surge, accounting for one-fifth of the total wind annual market in 2025.”
The Renewables 2020 website is here ; a 9-page Executive Summary is here .
Putting the ‘Justice’ in ‘Just Transition’: Tackling inequality in the new renewable economy is a report released on November 7, co-written by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Electrical Trades Union, the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council and the Victorian Trades Hall Council . This is the latest development in a union campaign to promote Australia’s offshore wind industry , focusing on the Star of the South project, Australia’s first proposed offshore wind farm. The report calls for government policies to support the emerging industry and to make the Star of the South “ the best possible example of a just transition” by diversifying the job opportunities for workers and communities currently reliant on coal, oil and gas.
Specifically, the new report recommends:
- the Commonwealth establish an energy transition authority to work with states and regions, develop a stand-alone Offshore Renewables Act, and create an agency responsible for facilitating the development of offshore renewable energy in Commonwealth waters;
- the development of offshore and onshore renewable energy master plans that incorporate assessments of supply chains, procurement and infrastructure;
- ensuring renewable energy financing, targets, contracts, licensing and approvals require the maximising of local jobs, including planning for direct redeployment of workers from fossil fuel industries;
- the Victorian Government establish a just transition group to ensure a well-planned energy transition with the best possible social outcomes by formally consulting with relevant stakeholders including trade unions, employers and communities;
- maximising the social benefit of the Star of the South project by requiring local design, manufacturing, and construction;
- funding of appropriate training and retraining through local TAFEs, along with minimum apprentice ratios; and
- maximising the number of jobs available by ensuring good rosters and reasonable hours of work.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) represents seafarers supplying the offshore oil and gas industry, as well as workers in Newcastle’s coal terminals, and port and tug workers in coal export ports in New South Wales and Queensland. The MUA is part of the Offshore Alliance ,which works to organise workers and improve conditions in the offshore oil and gas industry. The MUA position on renewable energy and a discussion of the Just Transition campaign are available here ; the MUA maintains a petition here .
California Offshore Wind: Workforce Impacts and Grid Integration is a report released on September 27 by the Center for Labor Research and Education at University of California, Berkeley, in partnership with Energy and Environmental Economics Inc. The report seeks to quantify what benefits for workers and communities would emerge from a major offshore wind power sector, given that the depth of California’s waters require floating platform wind installations, and floating wind is in its infancy. (According to the report, the only commercially operating project now is the 30 MW Hywind project , opened in 2017 off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland). The author interviewed union leaders, offshore wind industry participants, workforce training professionals, and port and transportation specialists for their firsthand accounts of the impacts of offshore wind, as well as analyzing the research to date on the economic and employment impacts of the fixed-bottom offshore wind industry around the world. A press release provides an executive summary of the report.
The conclusion: state policy intervention is a crucial determinant of the level of benefit for offshore wind. Excerpts from the report: The largest economic benefits would occur “if an in-state supply chain were developed for the primary components of wind turbine generators—blades, nacelles (hubs), and towers—as well as the floating platforms, thus creating thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs. But the offshore wind industry is highly globalized, with its supply chain centered in Europe, and by the mid-2020s, China is likely to become a major exporter of wind components. … policymakers should set a clear goal for offshore wind as part of the long-term renewable energy planning process (for example, a mandate for at least 8 GW over a decade). If the offshore wind planning process were to evolve in a more piecemeal basis, without strategic direction or fixed targets, wind developers and manufacturers would lack incentive to make major California investments…. Although the state has a strong workforce training system, including the construction industry’s state-certified apprenticeships, skills gaps are likely to be a challenge for offshore wind on the North Coast. The state should consider creating a High-Road Training Partnership (HRTP) for offshore wind to fill these gaps and broaden community access to offshore wind jobs. HRTPs are a new state program of industry‐specific training programs that prioritize job quality, equity, and environmental sustainability.”
On March 7, the government of the United Kingdom announced a new Offshore Wind Sector Deal which aspires to provide 30% of the U.K.’s electricity by 2030 and, according to the article in The Guardian, also promises that jobs in offshore wind will triple to 27,000 by 2030. The detailed government press release further states that the deal will increase the number of women in the industry, continue efforts by educational institutions to develop a sector-wide curriculum to facilitate skills transfer, prompt new targets for apprenticeships, and create an “Offshore Energy Passport”, recognised outside of the UK, so that workers will be able “to work seamlessly across different offshore sectors.” Unite the union reacted with this statement , which included a warning that the Energy Passport “should not be used to attack workers’ terms and conditions of employment, nor compromise health and safety regulations.”
In the same statement, Unite also called for a ‘level playing field’ for Scotland so that it can secure large-scale manufacturing contracts for its own offshore renewables sector. The concern follows the award of £2.8 billion in contracts for turbine manufacture to companies in Spain, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates, rather than to the BiFab yards in Fife, Scotland. As reported in “Union fury as £2.8 billion wind turbine contract goes overseas” in the Greener Jobs Alliance newsletter (March/April), the GMB and Unite unions are calling on the Scotland’s Prime Minister and the Scottish Parliament to intervene, stating: “The Scottish Government and the public have a stake in BiFab and with it our renewables manufacturing future. We owe it to our communities to tackle the spaghetti bowl of vested interest groups that’s dominating our renewables sector and to fight for Scotland’s share’.
A Canadian Press story in early May highlighted that renewable energy accounted for 66% of energy generated in Canada in 2015, and appeared widely – for example, in the Globe and Mail (May 2) and the Toronto Star . The information behind the news was drawn from Canada’s Adoption of Renewable Power Sources – Energy Market Analysis May 2017 by the National Energy Board , which provides much more detail about each type of renewable energy, and notes the factors influencing their adoption rates (including costs, technological improvement, environmental considerations, and regulatory issues). The NEB also compares Canada to other countries, and perhaps most interestingly, includes a section on Emerging Technologies , which highlights tidal power, off-shore wind, and geothermal. Canada has no existing production capacity for either off-shore wind or geothermal, although the report outlines proposed developments.
Some highlights from the Canada’s Adoption of Renewable Power Sources: the 2015 proportion of 66% renewables in our energy mix is an increase from 60% in 2005; only five countries (Norway, New Zealand, Brazil, Austria, and Denmark) produce a similar or larger share of electricity from renewable sources; China leads the world in total hyroelectricity production – Canada is second; over 98% of Canada’s solar power generation capacity is located in Ontario.
Other useful NEB publications: Canada’s Renewable Power Landscape (October 2016), which documents historical growth rates for renewable power in Canada, and each province and territory, and for the latest in energy projections, see Canada’s Energy Future 2016: Update – Energy Supply and Demand Projections to 2040 . These projections, which include fossil fuels as well as renewables, were published in October 2016 and therefore don’t reflect the policies of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.
Iron and Earth, the worker-led group which helps oil and gas industry workers transition to clean energy jobs, announced a Memorandum of Understanding with Beothuk Energy in mid-July 2016. Beothuk, headquartered in St. John’s, Newfoundland, is proposing to build six offshore wind farms in Atlantic Canada with a combined capacity of 4000+ MW of energy, and estimates that it will create 10 jobs for each MW produced. The MOU is not available online, but is reported to encourage apprenticeships and retraining in wind energy.
On August 8, the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of Iron and Earth began to crowdfund for a demonstration greenhouse project: to build a greenhouse incorporating solar and one other site-specific technology (micro-hydro, wind or geothermal) to power, heat and light a greenhouse year-round. Concurrently, the project will demonstrate a solution to food security issues by powering LED grow lights even in the winter months, and will offer a solar energy course to increase the region’s renewable energy skill set. Iron and Earth states that Newfoundland has no training programs for renewable energy, and a goal of this project is to retrain oil and gas workers. Bullfrog Power, the leading Canadian green energy provider, has pledged to match any donations made to the Greenhouse crowdfunder until the goal is reached; click here for details or to donate.
The costs and benefits of developing a commercial-scale offshore wind industry in the United States are explored in a report released on February 28. Policy recommendations are: accelerate the existing “Smart from the Start” program, enact the proposed Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act; establish a carbon tax, and roll back fossil fuel subsidies. Making the Economic Case for Offshore Wind was commissioned by the Center for American Progress, the Clean Energy States Alliance, the Sierra Club, and the U.S. Offshore Wind Collaborative, and conducted by the Brattle Group, a consulting firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Read it at: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/report/2013/02/28/54988/making-the-economic-case-for-offshore-wind/