In February, New Jersey solicited 1,100 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind energy, a first step towards Gov. Phil Murphy’s goal of achieving 3,500 MW of offshore wind energy generation by 2030. Quickly to follow, Murphy requested that the BPU consider soliciting another 1,200 MWs in both 2020 and 2022. Now, the state Board of Public Utilities is imminently deciding which of three offshore wind developers’ proposals the state will award the first contracts to.
If New Jersey does this right, it will not only create many family-supporting, sustainable jobs, but also become a key player as the East Coast develops a thriving offshore wind industry. One way to do that is to select multiple developers rather than put all eggs into one basket.
The International Union of Operating Engineers, of which I am the business manager for Local 825, cares deeply about the BPU’s decision. There is much to gain for over 7,000 of our local members if we can position the state early on to be an epicenter for the emerging offshore wind industry on the East Coast and set the stage for larger commercial-scale projects in the future. We’re excited to see New Jersey become a leader because it will be good for us, our employees and the state.
Selecting multiple developers would allow New Jersey to scale up a skilled workforce capable of building and maintaining offshore wind projects more quickly. Upon completion of construction, New Jersey will have a greater pool of laborers qualified for the maintenance and technical jobs that stay in New Jersey for the long-term. Having multiple projects also means varied timelines for construction, meaning a more sustainable pipeline of jobs for more workers. Alternately, a singular project being stalled for any reason could mean an unemployed labor force for months.
Aside from the obvious benefit of greater job creation, there are several other reasons it makes sense to award the contracts to multiple developers.
Offshore wind is a new industry for New Jersey, and in addition to building a capable workforce we must also establish the supply chain that will serve developers with their manufacturing needs. Multiple developers to work with becomes an added incentive for companies to invest right here in the state, in the equipment and logistical solutions to power the industry. More players in the game at every level of the supply chain means cost competitiveness that will ultimately benefit taxpayers.
Multiple future sources of offshore wind power from different developers also means more competitive prices for ratepayers and added confidence in reliable, consistent electricity to their homes across the state.
If New Jersey wants to lead the way in offshore wind and lay the groundwork for sustainable, long-term job and economic growth in the state, selecting multiple competitive developers is the right course of action for the BPU to follow.
Gregory Lalevee, of Bridgewater, is business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825.