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California Offshore Wind Bill Passes Assembly

Legislation advances just after state and federal agencies announce sea space off the California coast will be reserved for offshore wind turbines
For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA—Days after federal and state leaders announced plans for offshore wind off the California coast, legislation authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) to jumpstart the West Coast offshore wind industry passed the California State Assembly today. Assembly Bill 525 would direct state agencies to set statewide goals for offshore wind production and develop a strategic plan for California to achieve large-scale renewable wind energy by 2045.

 “The signs of the climate crisis are all around us,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “With offshore wind, we have an opportunity to counter the threat of climate change, meet our clean energy goals, and create thousands of new good-paying jobs in the process.”

The devastating impacts of climate change are increasingly apparent in places like California. From deadly forest fires to drought to power outages, Californians are acutely aware of the devastation that lies ahead if climate change continues unchecked. 

To combat this existential threat, California has set ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals. Senate Bill 100, passed and signed into law in 2018, requires the state to achieve a carbon-free electric system by 2045, which will necessitate an estimated 140 GW of new clean energy production. The state will not meet this goal without a diverse portfolio of clean energy sources, including new clean energy sources.

Offshore wind has enormous potential to help California meet clean energy mandates and help stabilize the state’s energy grid. If the total technical potential for offshore wind capacity along the California coast were built out, the state could see approximately 112 GW of new clean energy. Additionally, offshore wind is the perfect compliment to California’s existing solar capacity. When the sun sets and solar stops producing, wind picks up allowing offshore wind turbines to produce energy throughout the night and late afternoon during peak usage hours.

AB 525 would direct the California Energy Commission (CEC) to create a strategic plan to put offshore wind in place along the California coast. The bill would require the CEC to set 2030 and 2045 gigawatt targets for offshore wind production. The strategic plan would map out near term infrastructure improvements needed to accommodate offshore wind facilities.

To harness the greatest wind capacity, offshore wind turbines along the California coast would need to be placed 20-30 miles offshore in federal waters. The turbines would not be visible from the coast. Due to the deep waters on the West Coast, turbines would need to be floating structures, which has the added benefit of being far less disruptive to the sea floor. Recent amendments to AB 525 protect natural habitats and marine life in the offshore wind planning and construction processes.

As the pandemic has ravaged California’s economy and many are unemployed, it is crucial to look towards industries like offshore wind that can provide new employment opportunities. Offshore wind construction has the capacity to create 14,000 good-paying jobs for California workers. Additionally, offshore wind has the potential to save ratepayers $1 billion between now and 2040.

This week, the Biden and Newsom administrations announced that 399 square miles of sea space off the California coast would be reserved for offshore wind turbines. This announcement provides a strong foundation for the California offshore wind industry and allows California to compete with East Coast states that are much further along in planning for and constructing offshore wind turbines.

Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose), Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-Santa Barabara), Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), Assemblymember Lisa Calderon (D-Whittier), Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), Assemblymember Phillip Chen (R-Brea), Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) are coauthors of AB 525. 

Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, and Environment California are cosponsoring AB 525. 

“As we face the existential threat of climate change, offshore wind remains a significant source of renewable energy that has yet to be harnessed in California,” said Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis. “AB 525 will help California launch a large-scale offshore wind industry that could transform our state in ways that will have extraordinary environmental and economic benefits. I thank Assemblymember Chiu for his leadership on this issue, and the Assembly for its bipartisan approval of this important measure.”

 “The Building Trades in California have built the vast majority of the utility scale solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and pumped storage making California a global leader in renewable energy,” said Robbie Hunter, President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, representing nearly half a million hardworking construction workers statewide. “Offshore wind is the next frontier and our highly skilled workforce is positioned to bring a new, limitless and reliable green energy source onto California’s grid. If you will, it’s a wind-win.” 

“California’s progress toward investing in clean offshore wind energy took a major leap forward this week,” said Laura Deehan, State Director of Environment California. “With the passage of AB 525, we are closer than ever to breaking ground on offshore wind projects that are critical to meeting our climate targets and achieving 100% renewable energy. With the state in a drought, and another potentially devastating wildfire season around the corner, we don’t have a minute to lose in investing in the clean energy technologies that are key to addressing the climate crisis,”

“Offshore wind will be an essential part of California’s transition to a clean electric grid. Renewable energy companies are prepared to invest billions of dollars to make the state a global leader in offshore wind technology, while providing clean, reliable, affordable energy,” said Danielle Osborn Mills, Director of American Clean Power-California. “Given the new partnership between California and the federal government on offshore wind, the next step we take on this vital new source of renewable energy will be more important than ever—putting in motion all of the planning and permitting, and infrastructure development, this unique industry will require. California has demonstrated its commitment to the infrastructure, jobs, reliability, and greenhouse gas reductions that offshore wind and other clean energy technologies can produce. This bill will ensure the state can make them a reality—by bringing these essential new energy resources online.” 

“Investing in offshore wind will create thousands of career-track jobs in manufacturing and construction in communities that currently lack these opportunities,” said Jeff Hunerlach, District Representative at Operating Engineers Humboldt County. “California’s vote today is a key step to delivering these job opportunities, and comes at an important moment as our state builds back from this economic downturn. Now, it’s time for the state of California to move full-speed ahead toward development.” 

“Offshore wind energy can create cleaner air and good local jobs for environmental justice communities,” said Eddie Ahn, Executive Director at Brightline Defense. “By voting to pass AB 525 today, California legislators took an important step towards ensuring environmental equity and community benefits for frontline communities.” 

AB 525 will now move on to a Senate policy committee for a hearing this summer.

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Assemblymember David Chiu (D–San Francisco) is the Chair of the Housing & Community Development Committee of the California State Assembly. He represents the 17th Assembly District, which encompasses eastern San Francisco. Learn more at:  https://a17.asmdc.org/