Offshore Wind Energy Development off the California Coast: Maximum Feasible Capacity and Megawatt Planning Goals for 2030 and 2045
August 02, 2022
Commission Siting Decisions and Regulations (800)
Offshore Renewable Energy
Scott Flint, Rhetta deMesa, Pamela Doughman, Elizabeth Huber
This report responds to the directive set forth by Assembly Bill 525 (AB 525, Chiu, Chapter 231, Statutes of 2021). The law directs that on or before June 1, 2022, the California Energy Commission (CEC) shall “evaluate and quantify the maximum feasible capacity of offshore wind to achieve reliability, ratepayer, employment, and decarbonization benefits and shall establish megawatt offshore wind planning goals for 2030 and 2045.” This report addresses these requirements. Furthermore, it discusses the potential for offshore wind energy development in federal waters off the California coast to provide a new source of electricity generation, add technology diversity to the state’s renewable energy and zero-carbon resource portfolio, and help California meet its ambitious climate and energy goals.
The draft report was originally proposed for consideration at a CEC Business Meeting on May 24, 2022, however, at a May 18, 2022, public workshop commenters identified newly released studies that were not considered in the development of the draft report. To evaluate these new studies and allow for additional public process around how these studies may inform the draft report, consideration of the draft report was postponed to a later date.
AB 525 requires the CEC to consider 12 factors when establishing the MW offshore wind planning goals. As discussed in Chapter 3, the CEC assessed all 12 factors. While all factors are important in establishing MW planning goals for the strategic plan, the following five factors have had greater influence on development of the MW planning goals in the draft report published on May 6, 2022:
The findings of the 2021 SB 100 Joint Agency Report.
The need to initiate long-term transmission and infrastructure planning to facilitate delivery of offshore wind energy to Californians.
The need for reliable renewable energy that accommodates California’s shifting peak load.
The generation profile of offshore wind off the California coast.
The potential impacts on coastal resources, fisheries, Native American and Indigenous peoples, and national defense, and strategies for addressing those potential impacts.
An additional factor that has contributed to the August 2, 2022, revised report is factor 11: any executive action from the Governor regarding offshore wind. In addition to the factors described above, the proposed revisions of the planning goals are supported by factor 11, any executive action from the Governor regarding offshore wind. In a July 22, 2022, letter to the Chair of the California Air Resources Board, the Governor urged bold actions to address the urgency of the climate crisis and outlining new targets to accelerate progress on California’s 2030 climate goals and to get to climate neutrality no later than 2045. In the letter, among other requested actions, the Governor asks the CEC to establish an offshore wind planning goal of at least 20 GW by 2045 and to work with the state’s federal partners to accelerate the deployment of offshore wind, noting that California is home to one of the best offshore wind resources in the world and that offshore wind can serve as a clean, domestic source of electricity that can play an important role in meeting the state’s growing need for clean energy. The CEC factored this climate urgency and the call for at least a 20 GW goal into the August 2, 2022, revised report.
This report is the first of four work products the CEC is directed by AB 525 to prepare. By no later than June 30, 2023, the CEC, in coordination with federal, state, and local agencies and a wide variety of stakeholders, must develop a strategic plan for offshore wind energy developments installed off the California coast in federal waters and submit it to the California Natural Resources Agency and the Legislature. The strategic plan is to be informed by interim activities and products developed by the CEC that include this report and two additional reports due on or before December 31, 2022. The two additional reports include assessing the economic benefits of offshore wind as they relate to seaport investments and workforce development needs and standards and preparing a permitting roadmap that describes time frames and milestones for a coordinated, comprehensive, and efficient permitting process for offshore wind energy facilities and associated electricity and transmission infrastructure off the California coast.