Offshore wind could be big winner in governor’s race

Source: Benjamin Storrow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, November 6, 2017

The offshore wind industry has been stuck in the doldrums under New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, but the political breeze may now be shifting in its favor.

Both the Democrat and Republican running in the Nov. 7 race to replace Christie, a two-term governor and former Republican presidential candidate, have promised to support offshore wind should they assume control of the corner office in Trenton.

The proclamations are welcome news for an industry that once viewed the Garden State as its American launchpad but has since seen efforts to install turbines off New Jersey’s coast grind to a halt.

New Jersey lawmakers approved subsidies for the industry in 2010, but state regulators have yet to finalize rules that would enable developers to claim the incentives. Many attribute the delay to Christie’s presidential ambitions and his bid to appease fossil fuel interests (Energywire, June 9).

“Things have been very much on hold under Christie,” said Lauren Burm, a spokeswoman for DONG Energy, a Danish wind developer that holds a lease off New Jersey’s shores. “We are very much looking forward to a new beginning and bringing this new industry to New Jersey.”

Democratic candidate Phil Murphy enjoys a commanding lead in the polls. The former Goldman Sachs banker and ambassador to Germany has made offshore wind a key talking point in his campaign. Murphy has proposed installing 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030 — a figure that dwarfs proposals from other states.

The Republican candidate in the race, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, has also signaled support for the industry, telling Politico New Jersey this summer that the Garden State “must move quickly to integrate more renewables” to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals.

The issue hasn’t featured prominently in a race dominated by talk of property taxes, New Jersey’s transit system and state finances.

Murphy did launch a brief attack during the pair’s Oct. 10 debate, seeking to tie Guadagno to her former boss and saying Christie “could have pressed the button and made us the leader in offshore wind in America if not the world and chose not to.”

The debate moved on to other topics, and Guadagno did not respond.

New Jersey’s shallow waters make the state a prime candidate for development. Burm, the DONG spokeswoman, said the company’s surveys show wind speeds are “very similar, if not better, to what we see in Europe.”

But the winning candidate may need to hurry if New Jersey is to become the burgeoning industry’s service hub. Massachusetts is accepting bids for projects required under a 2016 state law calling for 1,600 MW of wind off Martha’s Vineyard. Maryland regulators recently approved two projects with a total capacity of 368 MW. And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has set a target of installing 2,400 MW by 2030.

New Jersey lawmakers are eager to get back in the race for wind. Stephen Sweeney (D), the New Jersey Senate president and a prominent wind backer, said he anticipates the new governor will act quickly to ensure the financial incentives are finalized.

“We’re ready. We know what we’re doing. I wouldn’t think we would have much of a problem going forward,” Sweeney said.