NE4OSW Seeks RI Offshore Wind Procurements that Maximize Environmental, Socioeconomic Benefits

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 13, 2022 
Jennifer Delony, New England for Offshore Wind, 603-320-7043 

NE4OSW Seeks RI Offshore Wind Procurements that Maximize Environmental, Socioeconomic Benefits
Coalition Submits Comments on Rhode Island Energy’s Draft RFP for Offshore Wind 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – October 13, 2022 – The New England for Offshore Wind coalition has submitted comments to the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that underscore a need for specificity, stringency, and transparency in Rhode Island Energy’s upcoming offshore wind procurement. 

“The coalition’s recommendations for Rhode Island Energy’s draft request for proposals for offshore wind, if adopted, would ensure Rhode Island advances projects that maximize environmental and socioeconomic benefits,” said Amanda Barker, Policy Associate at coalition member Green Energy Consumers Alliance and the coalition’s Rhode Island State Committee Chair. “We are looking forward to working with the Commission to embrace the full potential of responsibly developed offshore wind power.” 

In comments for the utility’s draft request for proposals for long-term offshore wind energy, the coalition recommended increasing the points allocated in the bid evaluation process for non-price factors from 25% to 50%. Doing so will ensure that bid evaluators can give appropriate weight to environmental impacts; greenhouse gas reductions; diversity, equity, and inclusion; environmental justice; and community benefits. 

“To obtain the maximum benefit from this promising opportunity, we call for this balance between qualitative and quantitative factors to appropriately value the details that will shape the industry’s interaction with our communities and environment,” the coalition said. 

To ensure that the public understands the criteria for scoring bids, the coalition asked the PUC to ensure the evaluation process is transparent. Scoring and weighting information for each factor in the evaluation of bids should be available to the public instead of submitted to the PUC under seal, they said. 

Emissions Reduction 

The Affordable Clean Energy Security Act, signed into law by Gov. Dan McKee on June 29, requires Rhode Island Energy to issue an RFP for between 600-1,000 MW of offshore wind capacity no later than Oct. 15. In their comments, the coalition urged the utility and the PUC to select a project or projects that reach the maximum procurement of 1,000 MW. 

“Larger projects will not only have the greatest impact in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but they will also drive greater economic and workforce benefits for Rhode Island,” they said. 

In addition, the coalition asked for bid evaluation to give preference to projects that include additional procurements by municipal aggregations, government entities, businesses, or large non-profit organizations. 

DEI, Environmental Justice 

The coalition urged the PUC to prioritize the needs of disadvantaged and environmental justice populations when evaluating bids.  

They said the review of bidders’ submissions should include an examination of diversity, equity, and inclusion plans for commitments to solicit investment from minority and disadvantaged investors as well as workforce and supplier diversity. They also encouraged the PUC to ensure accountability to those plans by requiring bidders to provide regular updates and statistics on progress. 

They also asked that environmental justice plans outline potential impacts, both positive and negative, on environmental justice populations and host communities, and that developers commit to productive engagement and consultation with tribal nations, including but not limited to the Narragansett Indian Tribe. 

Coordinated Transmission 

In their comments, the coalition recommended that bidders submit mandatory details on how connection to regional offshore transmission would affect their proposed projects. 

“We believe that optimized offshore wind facility interconnection and regional transmission are of utmost importance to increase system reliability, minimize energy costs, and minimize the effects of infrastructure development on the environment and coastal communities,” Barker said.  

The coalition also called for bidders to describe in their proposals any provisions that would ready the wind facilities to use regionalized offshore transmission infrastructure. 

With that information, they said, the PUC can evaluate the merits of potentially interconnecting offshore wind projects solicited through this procurement with regionalized offshore transmission facilities considered through a Request for Information (RFI) released by five New England states on Sept. 1. 

Community Benefits 

In order to deliver much-needed support to Rhode Island’s communities, the coalition urged the PUC to ensure offshore wind project contributions flow to local communities through community benefit agreements and project labor agreements designed in collaboration with organized labor and local organizations. 

Developers, they said, should demonstrate clear commitments in their bids to maximize opportunities for the local workforce and port resources as well as use of local and domestic content. 

Environmental Impacts 

The coalition’s comments reflected a desire to enable bidders to go above and beyond the legally required minimum measures for environmental and fisheries mitigation. 

They asked that proposed measures for reducing and offsetting environmental impacts receive significant value in bid evaluation. 

“Projects that submit robust and well-developed plan measures should not be disadvantaged because those mitigation plans add to the overall project cost,” they said. 

They asked the PUC to base the analyses of environmental impact mitigation plans on evaluation criteria that are developed through robust stakeholder engagement and use the best available science. 

About 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.