California Germany Bilateral Energy Conference: Realizing California Offshore Wind Potential

VX News excerpts this offshore wind panel from the recent California Germany Bilateral Energy Conference, with remarks by California Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas; Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regional Director Doug Boren; Senior Climate Change Program Manager at the Ocean Protection CouncilJustine Kimball, and EnBW’s Damian Bednarz who elaborate on California’s plans for creating commercial-scale wind farms to meet the state’s energy and emissions goals. Moderated by CEC's Eli Harland, the panel note lessons learned from the global community and addresses how state agencies and developers are coordinating with local and federal stakeholders to identify opportunities and troubleshoot challenges in implementing grid-scale offshore wind solutions. 

Karen Douglas: As a Commissioner at the California Energy Commission in my third term, I've had the privilege of being part of California policy development and implementation in this cross-cutting area of renewable energy and climate policy implementation. I’ve really been able to see our goals accelerate and see the progress on the ground as we move to meet this ever increasing set of goals because of the urgency to act on climate change. Climate policy is a big part of our focus on offshore wind because we're moving aggressively in California to decarbonize our electric grid as we shift increasing energy uses from other sectors such as mobile sources and the transportation sector to electricity with broad-based policies to implement electric vehicle charging and electrification at ports, for example.

We have been working since 2016 with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on looking into where in California offshore wind could be appropriate and how to bring it forward. I've been the point person for the state on the BOEM California Offshore Wind Energy Task Force since 2016. We've been happy to have quite a lot of participation from multiple California agencies as well as local entities and tribes on those taskforce meetings. We're moving things forward quickly because with leadership from the Biden administration and Newsom administration, we were able to announce the ability to move forward with an offshore wind area on the Central Coast. That took years of work to negotiate between conflicting uses, particularly in terms of military compatibility off of the Central Coast of California. We've also got an offshore wind area on the North Coast. I think Doug Boren can talk more about this, but we have designated wind energy areas and in both locations, and BOEM is moving forward in partnership with the state to go to the leasing stage there.

We still have many issues to work through in California as we look at offshore wind. Some of the Energy Commission's work in coordination with our partners inside and outside of the state will be important, especially as we implement a AB 525 and lay the groundwork for and develop a strategic plan for how this industry can unfold in California. These are exciting times for offshore wind. It's something we've been working on for years, but right now that work has accelerated and I have found it extremely valuable to learn from our partners in Europe. We've had a partnership in collaboration with Germany and also with a number of other European countries that have moved forward with offshore wind. We're really interested in bringing some of these lessons learned into the California space as well.

Damian Bednarz: Thank you again to the state of California, the GACC, and of course, our colleagues in Germany that put this session together. It’s a real honor to be on this panel and get a chance to speak more about the opportunities we have together.

 I'm Damien Bednarz. I'm the managing director of EnBW North America. We are the US subsidiary of EnBW AG, which is the largest integrated utility in Germany. It is also Germany's offshore wind pioneer. We built Germany's first offshore wind farm over a decade ago. We have been active here in the US now for over three years, with activity both on the East Coast and of course, the West Coast. Specifically, we're focusing a lot of efforts in our western efforts to the Central Coast in Morro Bay. We've been working there for over three years now establishing relationships and also creating the necessary mechanisms for having us work together to develop offshore wind.

So, to have this panel have the opportunity to speak with everybody is very exciting for us. It is also the natural next step. There's a huge opportunity for California in 2022, especially as we see offshore wind really accelerate. This is the time. I’ll just say anecdotally, recently I had the opportunity to stand up there in Morro Bay itself, and we had a chance to meet with number of groups who are heavily invested in making sure offshore wind becomes a reality out there in Central Coast. One in particular was the fishing community. We have a mutual benefit agreement with the Central Coast fishermen has been going back now for three years. We have a community benefits agreement with the city of Morro Bay, and we're actively engaged with numerous conversations for a real diverse coalition. And one of the anecdotes from that meeting with fishermen was we had an opportunity to get into the technical aspects of a floating offshore wind would look like. Moreso, I think from all those conversations that we’ve had and seeing it up close, it's really kind of the opportunity to understand that this will be a very California approach. This is a very unique market. This is very much in a way to get this right from beginning. So, I'm here to talk more about how we view that difference between these coasts, lessons learned, but also how California is going to get this right from the beginning.

Doug Boren: First, I'd like to thank the California Energy Commission for inviting me to participate on the panel today at the 5th annual California Germany Bilateral Energy Conference. I'd also like to say that BOEM maintains an active relationship with the government of Germany to ensure a robust exchange of information and lessons learned between our two countries on matters of offshore wind development.

I’m Doug Boren, and I’m the Regional Director for the Pacific Regional Office at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). BOEM is a bureau within the US Department of Interior, and we are responsible for America's offshore energy and mineral resources. The bureau promotes energy independence, environmental protection, and economic development through responsible science-based management of energy and mineral resources on the US Outer Continental Shelf. As directed by President Biden's Executive Order tackling the climate crisis at home and abroad, the Department of Interior has partnered with other federal agencies to increase renewable energy production on public lands and waters, including a commitment to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. At the federal level, the Department of Interior has developed a new offshore wind leasing path to help the administration achieve its 30 gigawatts by 2030 goal and beyond, which was announced by Interior Secretary Holland last month.

California is a part of the path forward for achieving the 30 gigawatt goal. Like Commissioner Douglas mentioned earlier, back in July of this year, on the north coast of California, BOEM designated the Humboldt wind energy area where we conducted scoping for an environmental assessment that will cover lease issuance, site characterization, and site assessment activities. Just last Friday, BOEM designated the Morro Bay wind energy area, located approximately 20 miles off the central coast of California. BOEM is now going to prepare environmental assessment for the Morro Bay wind energy area to consider those same impacts, similar to Humboldt, of lease issuance, site characterization, and site assessment activities. We announced it last Friday and initiated a 60-day public scoping period which will extend through January 11, 2022. From a process standpoint, we intend to merge the North Coast and Central Coast process together at the Proposed Sale Notice stage and hold one lease sale for both areas offshore California in the fall of 2022.

In conclusion, I'd like to say that offshore wind presents us with an incredible opportunity to spur economic development, create good-paying union jobs, support local and underserved communities, and help our fight against climate change. We are committed to working with state and local governments, tribes, agencies, stakeholders, and ocean users to identify the areas of least conflict while meeting the nation's energy needs. Together we can help create a cleaner, more equitable energy future for our nation and abroad.

Justine Kimball: I'm Justine Kimball and I'm a senior scientist at the California Ocean Protection Council and lead the climate change program, which includes our offshore wind efforts and engagement. The Ocean Protection Council is a unique cabinet-level body within the California Natural Resources Agency. We were created by legislation to protect and conserve California's coastal and ocean ecosystems for future generations and advise the governor and legislature on ocean and coastal issues.

Our strategic plan includes a goal on a sustainable blue economy and specifically supports the development of commercial-scale offshore wind that minimizes impacts on marine biodiversity, habitats, currents, upwelling, fishing control resources, navigation, visual, and military operations. OPC’s role in coordinating with our agency partners and supporting the CEC has mostly been focused on funding a series of projects that compile and synthesize environmental, fishing, tribal, and cultural information relevant to the development of offshore wind. We have been supporting our agency partners in the idea that understanding use and potential impacts early in the process through a comprehensive assessment is critical to that inclusive process impacts and can anticipate and minimize those impacts as much as possible. Offshore wind, as we all know, is new on the West Coast, and so we're presented with new environmental conflicts and challenges. We're currently in that stage of compiling and understanding that body of information.

Commissioner Douglas: if you could build off of your opening remarks to provide some background on the planning and outreach of offshore wind in federal waters and a snapshot of what we can expect in California over the next several years.

Karen Douglas: In terms of that question, California has also set aggressive climate and renewable energy goals. They include 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2030 and, by executive order, carbon neutrality by 2045. We're also aiming to achieve 100%, zero emission vehicles by 2035. We're working towards a 60% renewables portfolio standard by 2030 and 100% renewable and zero carbon by 2045 across most of the sectors. These are pretty aggressive goals.

We have a process established by SB 100 to look at what is the mix of different technologies and approaches to achieve those goals that might include for example in-state renewables, out-of-state renewables, and different technologies. These then have different reliability considerations and transmission needs. We had an assumption that there would be 10 gigawatts of offshore wind. It wasn't actually an assumption; it was a cap. We know that within at least the initial modeling of where California could go to meet our goals, offshore wind is a reasonably good fit. We need to continue to improve that kind of assessment and that kind of modeling. The strategic plan, along with a series of work that we've embarked on for SB 100, will help us do that.

In terms of offshore wind, we have a state agency team that includes the Ocean Protection Council. OPC partners with us, especially on the science side, but also the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Coastal Commission, the State Lands Commission, the Office of Planning and Research, and the California Public Utilities Commission. We've been working through these issues together, and we've conducted more than 100 meetings with interested groups and developed a cloud-based data gateway for people to be able to access the data that we're using in this process. We've executed MOUs with numerous international partners to exchange key information and to have this kind of dialogue. We've heard interest from California stakeholders in learning from international experiences. One thing that we've been exploring is the possibility of having a larger stakeholder meeting or a webinar that would allow people in California to understand what some of the different models are that have been successful internationally.

We're working on the strategic plan that calls on us to meet a number of pretty aggressive deadlines for thinking through how this industry could unfold in California. The deadlines in that legislation call on us to do a number of analyses that would be in parallel with the nearer-term work that BOEM is partnering with us on around lease sales and potential developments in those two specific wind energy areas. This is going to be a very active effort in California. We're going to be looking both near-term at very specific areas at a very specific scale and longer term in a more exploratory way.

Damian Bednarz: Let me begin… by talking about education and outreach. I cannot stress enough how important that is, especially in a new market. Something that we are incredibly proud of with our work with Castle Wind, which is a project in the Central Coast is that we've spent the past three plus years now doing that very intimately, and setting up real vehicles, with organizations on the ground with people to understand what the opportunity is. But also to listen, right? I mean, it's the whole concept that you’ve got two ears, one mouth, so spend more time listening than you talk. We've been listening. We understand where the fishermen are coming from. We understand where the opportunities come from within labor and the environmental community.

This diverse coalition understands that where we stand currently there's a huge opportunity to accelerate this and do it the right way. So stakeholder engagement, something we've done at Castle Wind now for a very long time have dedicated vehicles for that coordination and also real agreements in place so that when we do get to the point of that lease option that Doug mentioned at the September/fall timeframe next year, we'll be ready. We'll be ready really to kind of scale this in a way that has their input and has their buy in. Because the success of renewable energy projects,—and this is not California, this is globally—has to do with a lot of buyers. You want to get groups involved.  You understand what the opportunity is and you want to work with them early on,  so you can dispel with some of the hurdles that some of these projects have seen in the past.  We don't have time, right? We understand—everybody on this panel and those watching—that we're in a climate crisis; we need to act. So, 2022 is a key pivotal year for offshore wind in California.

One thing to be very clear about is that California understands and knows only one position, and that is leadership. California will lead the West Coast and that's why the work done and time spent now upfront will pay massive dividends going forward for not just California, but the West Coast. The technology on the East Coast is going to be very different. We have fixed-bottom directly to the seabed efforts here on the East Coast and have spent a lot more years on it, so there's a lot more of established efforts here.

Floating technology and what that takes for California will be unique, and the ability to scale that in a way that brings a lot of buy in. And I keep talking about this coalition, so who are we talking about? We're talking about fishermen— commercial and recreational— labor, environmental justice, and underserved communities that see a role in this and see a pipeline for workforce training. These are key elements here  for how we can scale and do this right from the beginning. I think California understands that. I know that the allies and colleagues that exist in Washington, DC get that. So again, let's talk about the timing and the uniqueness here.

We've had several years of a head start on the East Coast. And again, there's a lot of efforts there has been kind of taken into account. In California, you have a true partner in DC that wants to make this happen. So the more that Sacramento and Washington DC can coordinate on this effort and streamline it to make sure that they get to that point is going to be critical. You've seen this on large scale renewables and solar this ability to get things moving. Again, time is not on our side. This deployment will be critical to meeting not only California's leadership on climate, but it's also an ability to meet its economic goals.

This isn't done in a vacuum. This takes a lot of folks on the ground, and there's a lot of supply chain to be discussed. There's a lot of talk about operations, maintenance, and all these aspects that you're looking at currently on the East Coast. But the single most important thing I can just provide as a developer is certainly knowing and setting those goals. California is within a global offshore wind market. States on the East Coast have set goals, clear ones, and that is encouraged even more with input, direction, and buy in from the industry to be here. And frankly, I believe California is on that path. AB 525 is a huge step forward. That's the pace we want to be at. We want to be setting these clear goals so the industry can be here to invest. But also knowing that when these lease areas come up for auction, we're in a position where we've also been able to educate and do the appropriate outreach so that those groups are with us.

What might we expect from BOEM Pacific over the next couple of years as it relates to offshore wind and are there any challenges or opportunities you specifically see?

Doug Boren: Like Commissioner Douglas said, the state and BOEM have been working in partnership. We have done a lot of outreach thus far. I'll just say that's just the beginning. The plan is that we'll continue to do engagement and outreach as we move through the process. In the future, now that we've got the wind energy areas both off Humboldt and Morro Bay, the dialogue is continuing.

As we move forward, the next step in the process is determining where the lease area is going to be in those wind energy areas. If we find areas appropriate for leasing, there's going to be more dialogue and stakeholder outreach to make sure that we minimize the impact as best as possible. To close out here, we've done a lot in the past, but we can always do more. We're continuing to develop plans and continue the outreach now. Well into the future, we'll continue to do that dialogue with all ocean users and tribes to make sure that we get this right. We’ll do it the California way.

Justine Kimball: The point about California doing it their own way really applies to what we're doing now in terms of assessing environmental issues, cultural issues, fishing activities, and information early in the process and comprehensively. I mentioned in my intro, OPC’s role on the research and on science side of things. We've funded this really ambitious set of projects to compile and synthesize these relevant datasets to model and analyze them. In this approach, we’re making these data and products publicly available through the online portal, and looking at species sensitivity, fishing communities, and tribal resources.

At this stage, that level of analysis and synthesis really isn't required in the BOEM process before the lease sale, but the state is very committed to this early, comprehensive, and thoughtful planning, particularly to support the state review of federal projects and to look at consistency with the state's Coastal Management Program, which is coming up next year.


We’re in a sprint to complete all these projects and to collect this information to support this early planning. We hear from our stakeholders through outreach and education that without this sort of fundamental, foundational, critical data to assess, it's difficult to react to what offshore wind might look like and what the impacts might be. In some sense, it’s a little surprising that we don't have this comprehensive assessment of environmental, cultural, and fishing information right now. In California, we've organized to fund, in a coordinated way, projects that are going to fill these data gaps early on in the process. I think that's really going to support a successful process. You can see that reflected in AB 525 as well; that importance on the early planning and data collection side of things.

"These are exciting times for offshore wind. It's something we've been working on for years...we know that within at least the initial modeling of where California could go to meet our [energy] goals, offshore wind is a reasonably good fit.”—Karen Doulgas