Coalition Urges Lawmakers, Developers to Adopt Principles
BOSTON – September 6, 2022 – The New England for Offshore Wind (@NE4OSW) coalition, in collaboration with coalition member Acadia Center, today released a set of Transmission Principles to help advance new transmission investments critically needed for offshore wind. The Transmission Principles establish a shared direction for transmission planning and development to bring offshore wind from New England’s coastal waters to its communities, providing maximum benefit with minimum impact.
The New England for Offshore Wind coalition finds that new electric power infrastructure is essential for decarbonization. To reach the goal of net zero by 2050, some studies have found the U.S. must double if not triple its transmission infrastructure. While the impacts are much less formidable than those of climate change, they must be minimized through effective planning and community engagement that prioritizes environmental justice populations.
The coalition’s Transmission Working Group, led by Melissa Birchard, Director of Clean Energy and Grid Reform at Acadia Center, developed the Transmission Principles to establish shared goals for transmission among diverse coalition members and to advance six core principles that should become the “B.A.S.I.C.S.” for transmission planning and development in the region. The shared goals include building the transmission we need without delay, encouraging coordination between state and regional decision makers, and ensuring holistic and transparent planning processes that further important goals, including environmental justice, environmental protection, and labor standards.
The coalition’s six Transmission Principles are:
- Benefit impacted communities – Target benefits to affected communities to help offset impacts, such as setting aside protected green space, cleaning up brownfields and investing in the local workforce and economy, in accordance with community input (see further below).
- Avoid, minimize and mitigate environmental impacts – Minimize the overall amount of new infrastructure needed through optimized, well-planned systems while avoiding or minimizing impacts on ecosystem services, considering cumulative environmental impacts and mitigating unavoidable impacts
- Secure environmental justice – Avoid and minimize new impacts on already overburdened and historically disadvantaged communities whenever possible, while strengthening equity in planning processes and weighing the cumulative environmental, economic and health impacts of any new infrastructure proposed in or near environmental justice communities.
- Inclusive and early stakeholder engagement – Consult stakeholders, including communities in potentially impacted areas, in the early stages of planning when alternatives are still being considered and new alternatives can still be identified.
- Coordinate on transmission investments – Serve as many needs across the region as possible with each transmission investment in order to increase consensus and reduce overall impacts and costs.
- Supply local jobs and economic development – Lift up workers and communities by providing high-quality, local union jobs and training via registered apprenticeships and project labor agreements, while driving workforce and supplier diversity and encouraging a domestic supply chain for the expansion and maintenance of our region’s electric grid.
Widespread observance of these fundamental principles will help to ensure the electricity generated from offshore wind can be delivered to New England’s homes and businesses soon and that transmission is developed responsibly to benefit communities.
We urge government agencies and transmission developers to integrate the B.A.S.I.C.S. principles into their planning and decision-making for the common good of the region and its progress to decarbonization.
Susannah Hatch, Environmental League of Massachusetts Director of Clean Energy Policy and New England for Offshore Wind Regional Lead, said:
“Expanding our electric transmission system will be critical to our ability to unlock the full potential of offshore wind and combat climate change. These principles demonstrate a vision for transmission development reached by a broad base of organizations that government and developers can adopt to ensure successful and beneficial outcomes. We are proud to demonstrate this consensus on these key principles, particularly in a region where transmission has very recently been a contentious issue. We are thrilled that the states have moved forward with a joint request for information (RFI) for transmission and urge them to ensure these BASICS guide the solicitation process as it unfolds.”
Melissa Birchard, Director for Clean Energy & Grid Reform, Acadia Center, said:
“The agreement of dozens of groups on the BASICS principles for transmission planning reflects a growing movement to get serious about transmission. We can’t decarbonize our communities without new transmission lines to carry clean energy to our homes. At the same time, transmission lines need to be planned with more input and more community benefits or they won’t get built. These principles are a step forward – developers and planners should listen up.”
Cindy Luppi, New England Director, Clean Water Action, said:
“These principles appropriately assert the need for environmental justice communities to be protected from further harm as the transmission system expands. Low-income communities and communities of color have borne the brunt of health damage from the fossil fuel economy for decades and deserve relief as the offshore wind power era launches.”
Tim Burgess, Assistant Business Manager, IBEW Local 104, said:
“IBEW Local 104 constructs and maintains high-voltage electrical infrastructure. Offshore wind as well as any other type of new electrical generating source creates the need for maintenance, improvements and new construction of electrical infrastructure. The new green energy opportunities will help advance our goals of creating long-term careers with great wages and benefits for both current and future members. We are looking forward to being part of this new energy market, showcasing our skills and 120 years of experience building and maintaining the power grid.”
Rebecca Schultz, Senior Advocate for Climate and Clean Energy, Natural Resources Council of Maine, said:
“According to Maine statute, electricity is a ‘basic human necessity,’ and as we work to reduce emissions and lower energy costs by electrifying transportation and heating, that fact will be even more palpable. These consensus principles can help set a course for a future in which we design, build and operate this vital public resource transparently and holistically to rationalize costs and benefits, instill public trust and expedite the clean energy transition for our region.”
Charles Rothenberger, Climate and Energy Attorney, Save the Sound, said;
“Improving our regional transmission grid is essential for ensuring that we have the infrastructure to support increased renewable energy resources that will be necessary to power an increasingly electrified future, and to move that energy to where it is needed. This effort can only be successful if undertaken in a deliberate, coordinated and collaborative manner by the New England states.”
Sherrie Trefry, Energy Market Leader at VHB, said:
“The speed the offshore wind industry can develop is connected, literally and figuratively, to required grid upgrades. Near-term, regionally approved transmission solutions are essential.”
On Sept. 1, five New England states jointly released a request for information to inform an initiative to integrate offshore wind and other clean resources onto the regional power grid in a cost-effective, reliable and efficient manner.
“New England for Offshore Wind is thrilled that five of the six New England states have come together to issue this request for information and explore investment options for the transmission infrastructure needed to integrate clean resources, including offshore wind, onto the regional power grid,” Hatch said. “The coalition is looking forward to participating in the RFI process. Transmission is a critical challenge that needs to be addressed for us to seize the opportunity offshore wind presents the region.”
In June, 38 organizations from across New England sent a letter to the New England governors urging them to issue the joint RFI for electric transmission solutions for offshore wind. The letter represents the first time this diverse group of organizations has come together to advocate for transmission infrastructure.
New England for Offshore Wind
New England for Offshore Wind is a broad-based coalition of businesses and associations, environmental and justice organizations, academic institutions, and labor unions committed to combatting climate change by increasing the supply of clean energy to our regional grid through more procurements of responsibly developed offshore wind. We believe that responsibly developed offshore wind is the single biggest lever we can pull to address the climate crisis while also strengthening our regional economy, protecting ratepayers, creating high quality jobs and improving public health by reducing pollution.
Acadia Center is a non-profit organization with offices across New England that works to advance bold, effective, and equitable clean energy solutions for a livable climate and a stronger, more equitable economy. Acadia Center accomplishes this through technical research, policy advocacy, and partnerships with diverse organizations and communities.