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Saturday, December 10, 2022

Energy secretary: US offshore wind jobs should be union jobs

New London, Conn. ( Associated Press) — The growing offshore wind industry is often seen as a boon for job creation, but who will do the job?

The US Secretary of Energy and Danish wind developer Orsted says he wants US union workers to build offshore wind farms dotting US shorelines – building workers who would otherwise be left out of the transition to renewable resources. can.

According to the Building Trades Unions of North America, most onshore wind and solar farms are built either with non-union workers or without collective bargaining agreements, except in California where unions are more involved in the industry. Orsted this month signed a Project Labor agreement with the National Union, which represents 3 million people in the building trades, to build the company’s US offshore wind farm with an American union workforce.

“Our recent experience with onshore wind and solar over the past two decades has been that most of those projects have not been built with us,” NABTU Secretary-Treasurer Brent Booker said this week. “So it’s important here in setting the standard for an emerging industry.”

Biden administration wants to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, generating enough electricity to power more than 10 million homes. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited the New London State Pier facility last week to see how Orsted, energy provider Eversource and the state of Connecticut are turning it into a hub for the offshore wind industry.

In a press conference that followed, Democratic governors and Democratic congressmen talked about creating American jobs – messages that will certainly play out in their re-election campaigns.

Governor Ned Lamont said there are “hundreds of well-paying jobs out there” and “we’re just getting started.”

US Sen. Richard Blumenthal thanked the unions, saying, “This is the future of energy right here in the United States.” US Representative Joe Courtney said they were maximizing every opportunity for the state to develop in a sustainable way.

US Sen. Chris Murphy, the only person not up for re-election, echoed the same message, saying offshore wind is the “holy grail of public policy” because it creates jobs, helps the local economy, Makes the country more secure and helps to save. The planet.

With the creation of trade members, Granholm said the administration is committed to creating “union jobs in America in this clean energy economy.” She said she wants mainly US union workers to build US offshore wind farms and wants to see project labor agreements span all aspects of the energy transition, drawing cheer from workers at the pier.

“That’s what we want, all unions,” she told the Associated Press.

Orsted’s US labor relations manager Alison Ziogas said one reason she sought a settlement with NABTU was to reassure workers, especially in the fossil fuel industry, that they could find well-paying jobs in offshore wind. .

“There is not the same level or quality of jobs with the solar industry, so it is a false narrative that you can have good jobs or a healthy environment but not both,” she said. “And we really believed that if we didn’t have everyone on board, we knew how things would end. It would lock into gridlock.”

Orsted currently has six projects in five states. The “National Offshore Wind Agreement” covers contractors working on and in the future for projects in which the project labor agreement has no expiration date. It sets out terms and conditions for union employees to build offshore wind farms, with the goal of ensuring a diverse workforce. It has provisions for training to ensure that they can build complex infrastructure.

Ziogas said the total work hours on each project would be done with almost all union labor, with a team from abroad having experience installing turbines that support offshore work. She said Orstedt is committed to “making an American industry,” and hopes the agreement sets the bar for it.

Keith Brothers, head of building trades in Connecticut, said they spoke briefly at the pier with Granholm about the project labor agreement. Brothers said it’s about creating opportunities, not only for a longtime tradesman but also for a new apprentice looking for a career in the emerging US offshore wind industry.

“That’s what’s exciting about it, it’s new. We don’t really know what it will bring or how many jobs it will bring. But we know it’s a lot,” he said. “We know it’s new and a lot more is coming.”

The first US offshore wind farm began operating off Block Island, Rhode Island in late 2016, Orsted acquired the developer and now operates that five-turbine wind farm. The first commercial-scale project is off the coast of Massachusetts.

The Biden administration has also approved the construction and operation of the South Fork Wind, a joint venture between Orsted and Eversource. Its transmission system will connect to the electric grid on Long Island, New York, making it the state’s first offshore wind farm and the start of an offshore wind industry there. Onshore construction began in February.

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