Gov. Gavin Newsom should sign AB 525 to help develop California’s offshore wind energy industry.
By Mandi McKay
Mandi McKay is director of social responsibility at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eddie Ahn, Special to CalMatters
Eddie Ahn is executive director of Brightline Defense, email@example.com.
As our state suffers catastrophic damage from wildfires and drought, California is at last gearing up to develop offshore wind power.
Responsible offshore wind that protects our coastlines and ecosystems will be critical to reducing climate pollution and meeting the energy goals we need to stave off future disasters. It also promises thousands of good jobs and a robust new clean economy.
Lawmakers recently advanced this industry by approving Assembly Bill 525, introduced by Assembleymember David Chiu, a Democrat from San Francisco, that would require the state to chart its strategy for offshore wind. Now, Gov. Gavin Newsom must sign it and let this industry bloom out over the Pacific Coast.
The dawn of offshore wind also presents a chance for California’s environmental, social justice, business and labor leaders to stand together as a powerful coalition, demonstrating its massive benefits for stakeholders across the state.
This commentary is co-authored by representatives of a brewery and an environmental justice nonprofit – perhaps a seemingly odd couple to some. But broad coalitions are needed for the daunting challenges posed by climate change. We are united in our belief that this bill is good for the climate, business and equitable access to renewable power, quality jobs and clean air.
California has already taken important steps to confront the climate crisis, setting a legal requirement for 100% clean electricity by 2045, with an interim goal of 40% by 2030. Under Newsom’s leadership, we have a unique window to meet these goals and tap the promise of offshore wind, which has the potential to power a quarter of the state’s energy needs on its own.
Major corporations and employers across California are eager to see this resource expand in the state. Companies want to transition to reliable and affordable sources of clean energy that will free them from the volatility of fossil fuel prices, and stave off the severe economic risks of climate change to their businesses and communities.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co operates the largest solar array in craft brewing as part of its strategy to meet its climate and energy goals. But the brewery still needs to purchase some electricity, and a cleaner grid powered by sources like offshore wind is essential for businesses to reduce the emissions footprint of purchased electricity. That’s why more than a dozen companies, including Sierra Nevada, have called on lawmakers to pass AB 525.
As an environmental justice nonprofit engaged in air quality monitoring and job training, Brightline Defense also believes in the economic and health benefits of offshore wind. A recent Brightline analysis found this industry will generate up to 17,500 jobs for local underemployed and unemployed communities, including highly skilled work in heavy industry and the trades.
Moreover, these jobs offer longer-term construction career opportunities, not just on the turbines themselves, but on vessels, transmission lines, ports and manufacturing facilities. Offshore wind installations on the East Coast are already creating good union jobs, and California offshore wind should follow this model, while also adopting local hiring policies and robust apprenticeship programs.
Investing in offshore wind will also bring significant public health improvements to the state. This is especially true for frontline communities that bear the brunt of power plant pollution. More than three-quarters of California’s gas-powered plants are located in disproportionately poor neighborhoods and communities of color, where air pollution has long menaced public health and compounded the risks of respiratory diseases. Cleaning our air is a social justice imperative and one that offshore wind will help address.
Each passing day of fire and drought is another reminder that we must act urgently to confront the climate crisis. California has the opportunity and the responsibility to embrace offshore wind as a key part of the solution. We urge Newsom to sign AB 525 and get this industry on the move. Its major advancements for jobs, justice and our state’s energy needs should make signing this bill a breeze.
Eddie Ahn has also written about why environmental justice experts and advocates from organized labor think California needs to go all in on offshore wind farms.