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’.