This conference, held at the Hynes Convention Center, featured many representatives from the wind industry and adjacent sectors. Over two days, numerous speeches and panels were held to talk about current progress and future projections. ACP designed all of it around the principles that formed the event’s tagline: “Steel in the water. People at work.”
Of course, some ongoing offshore wind projects are already showing signs of success. The main local example is Vineyard Wind, already delivering turbines to the job site. As Vineyard Offshore CEO Lars Thanning Pederson addressed attendees, “At the end of the year, we will see the first utility-scale offshore wind hitting the grid.” If most of the other proposed projects come to fruition, it will translate to $12 billion in capital investments and 80,000 potential new jobs. This was summarized by a rhetorical question asked by ACP CEO Jason Grumet: “Can this nation still build great things?”
Then again, the standard difficulties vexing the industry were well articulated. The first was the issue of inflation and high-interest rates. A good portion is related to the ongoing economic uncertainties at the time of the conference. But other issues have sprouted from these financial problems, especially as it relates to infrastructure and workforce development. As one panel noted in its discussion, “The offshore wind industry is rapidly expanding, but it faces challenges in attracting and developing a skilled workforce to meet growing demand.” Learning from the mistakes of other energy sectors, there is a concerted effort to ensure the opportunity is taken to help marginalized communities and small businesses.
Another issue was the somewhat improving, but still unresolved, concerns surrounding federal and state permitting. Some of this is related to the issue that RWE CEO Sam Eaton described as “scaling our industry from scratch.” Regarding the main federal wind energy goal, Eaton asked, “Are we on track to reach 30 GW by 2030? Yes and no.” Some progress has been made over the summer, but more work must be done to prevent delays and financial bleeding.
Nonetheless, the promise of what offshore wind could deliver had been regularly reiterated. Due to the conference’s location, there was an emphasis on the Northeast’s history of regional collaboration. As another panel noted regarding the state governments, “This industry has to succeed in order to achieve their [climate] goals… The states contracted those projects early in order to guarantee that certainty.”
These ideas were articulated further by the conference’s keynote speaker, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey. Gov. Healey heavily praised the development of Vineyard, even though she acknowledged more needs to be done. More than anything, she expressed the need to make the most of unprecedented federal investments in green energy. “This is the future, we are committed to it.”