Photo by Ruyan Ayten.

Maryland’s General Assembly on Monday passed legislation to expand the state’s offshore wind infrastructure and strengthen labor standards in the industry.

The Promoting Offshore Wind Energy Resources Act, also known as the POWER Act (SB781/HB793), is on its way the desk of Gov. Wes Moore, who has promised to sign the bill.

The POWER Act has bipartisan support among lawmakers, and according to the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) the legislation is supported by “labor unions, business associations, civil rights organizations, climate groups, and consumer advocates.”

CCAN explained the POWER Act will:

  • “Strengthen labor standards for offshore wind manufacturing, installation, and maintenance, ensuring these projects provide good union jobs.
  • Set a goal for the state to generate 8.5 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2031. Maryland is currently building two gigawatts.
  • Facilitate the construction of a shared transmission infrastructure to reduce the cost and environmental impact of future offshore wind projects.
  • Procure roughly 1 additional gigawatt of offshore wind power in existing lease areas while protecting ratepayers.”

Steel workers see possible revival of union jobs as a result.

“At its peak, Bethlehem Steel once employed over 30,000 steelworkers providing good-paying union jobs,” said Jim Strong, a sub-district director of the United Steelworkers union. “Offshore wind offers the return of steel fabrication and steelworkers at Sparrows Point, and we thank the Maryland General Assembly for passing the POWER Act because it provides the potential to create high paying union jobs in the supply chain sector.”

Iron workers are also optimistic.

“The Iron Workers and our registered union apprenticeship program are ready to train and build the new offshore wind industry and to help Maryland reach its renewable energy goals. The POWER Act ensures the residents of Maryland will have good union jobs for years to come, and careers they can retire from,” said Aaron Bast, business manager and financial secretary of Iron Workers Local 5.

“The POWER Act will bring good union jobs to Maryland, lower energy costs, and reduce pollution,” added Jamie DeMarco, Maryland director at the CCAN Action Fund. “Thanks to the bill sponsors, President Ferguson, and Speaker Jones, Maryland is a leader in addressing the climate crisis.”

Marceline White, executive director of Economic Action Maryland, cited the impact pollution has on low-income families.

“The POWER Act is a win for the environment and for our communities,” White said. “It empowers our state to meet critical climate goals without shifting the costs onto low-income families who cannot afford the costs of pollution nor of higher bills.”

Moira Cyphers, who handles Eastern Region State Affairs for the American Clean Power Association, said the expansion of offshore wind will improve air quality.

“Passing this bill creates incredible opportunities for Maryland. Offshore wind will be an important and reliable source of energy and will improve Maryland’s environment and air quality,” Cyphers said. “The POWER ACT victory should signal to federal regulators currently considering size and location for new offshore wind leases off the coast of the Mid-Atlantic that the Central Atlantic Wind Energy Areas must be robust – especially now that Maryland has passed this bill.”

According to the Maryland Energy Administration, Maryland’s total offshore wind market can “provide enough electricity to power about 600,000 average homes” and offshore wind projects are estimated to create “more than 12,000 direct full time equivalent (FTE) jobs during the development and constructions phase and more than 3,000 direct FTE jobs during the 20-30 year operations and maintenance phase.”

Developers involved have committed to including small, minority, woman, and veteran-owned businesses during project development.

The Maryland Energy Administration says offshore wind resources will “help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change while creating positive economic activity.”

US Wind, an offshore wind developer in Maryland, highlighted the legislation’s plan to more than quadruple Maryland’s offshore wind generation goals from 2 gigawatts to 8.5 gigawatts by 2031, along with its improvements for transmission infrastructure, as reasons the POWER Act is a big deal.

“The POWER Act is a real game changer for Maryland,” US Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski said. “It sets a path for the people of Maryland to reap the benefits of huge amounts of clean energy in the coming years. It also tells the entire offshore wind industry globally that Maryland is back big time as a major player. Companies looking to invest in offshore wind have to seriously consider Maryland.”

US Wind plans to develop an offshore wind manufacturing facility at Tradepoint Atlantic in Sparrows Point.

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