WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), delivered remarks at a keynote session of an annual offshore wind conference, Offshore WINDPOWER 2018 hosted by American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Below are Senator Carper’s keynote remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you to AWEA for inviting me here today. I do also want to thank everyone in this room for the work you all do to make offshore wind a reality in this country.
“The folks in my home state of Delaware – including Stephanie and her husband Willet Kempton – told me over a decade ago that offshore wind was worth the investment. I learned that offshore wind meant clean, reliable energy and good-paying American jobs, and I’ve been a strong supporter ever since. At times, it seemed that we could fit the small contingency of U.S. offshore wind stakeholders in my office, so to see this many people here today interested in the opportunities of U.S. offshore wind is heartening to me, to say the least.
“As Stephanie knows, I’m an avid runner. Show of hands for those who like to run. One of my favorite races is the Caesar Rodney Half-Marathon, which is held every year in March we start and end in downtown Wilmington, Delaware after running almost to Pennsylvania. Every part of the 13.1 mile race is challenging, which is why I love to run it so much. And let me tell you: despite Delaware being the lowest lying state in the nation, the hills on this course are no joke. The course starts off flat and around mile 3 the hills kick-in and never stop.
“Heading into the finish, right before mile 13, runners face the steepest part of the course. The last hill goes straight up for about a quarter of a mile until the finish line, making a finish all the sweeter. And I’m not the only one who loves this race -- the Caesar Rodney Half-Marathon is the nation’s oldest half marathon race in the country, held for the 55th time this year. This year was my 35th time running the race. I’m often asked, ‘How can you run that far at 71? How do you make it up those hills at 71?’ And my answer is that I tackle each step, each hill and each mile one at a time, without taking my eye off the end goal of finishing. I also feed on the energy of the runners that are running with me.
“Together, we help each other get up the hills and make it to the finish line faster than if we were alone. I bring up running the Caesar Rodney Half-Marathon because I believe it is similar to the challenges the offshore wind industry has faced over the years and continues to face. At the beginning, it was flat racing. Energy prices were high, the economy was humming, and subsidies were in reach.
“Then around the 2008-2009 period, the course began to climb. Energy prices tanked because of low natural gas prices, the economy went into a deep depression, and subsidies were no longer attainable. I still remember my staff ticking through all the challenges that the offshore wind industry faced – lack of regulatory uncertainty, financing, and infrastructure just to name a few.
“For many, the race to getting an offshore wind project in federal waters was too tough. In fact, many said it would never get it done. However, just like running a long race, I knew we had to take each challenge one-by-one and work together to overcome the odds.
“First, we went to work on regulatory certainty. I bet I called my good friend then-Secretary Salazar almost every week after he took the job in 2009 to talk about the offshore wind regulatory structure over at the Department of the Interior.
“Quickly, Secretary Salazar and his team at Interior realized that the regulatory framework for the oil and gas industry didn’t quite work for offshore wind. It was unchartered territory, if you will. And as a result, the Interior Department developed “Smart from the Start,” which facilitated offshore wind leases in federal waters along the Northeast.
“Next, we moved to tackle financing challenges. In 2011, I hosted an offshore wind summit with the offshore wind industry and Obama Administration officials to see how to address financing concerns. From that meeting, I heard loud and clear that a long-term extension of the Investment Tax Credit –or ITC - was needed most.
“My team and I went to work on trying to find a short-term solution to this problem. In 2012, we were able to convince my colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee that changing the wind ITC to apply to projects that had started construction, rather than completed construction, was a good idea. This language made it into the 2012 tax extenders package.
“This little change had a profound effect on the industry. The commence construction ITC facilitated financing for the first offshore wind project in the nation off the shores of Rhode Island. It also turned out to be such a good idea that we applied it to other renewable energy ITCs and production tax credits – creating a boom for the wind industry as a whole.
“At the same time, I asked my team to develop a long-term, bipartisan solution to ITC uncertainty. And that resulted in the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act, which was first introduced in 2011 with my two colleagues from Maine, Senators Snowe and Collins.
“This legislation – which I have introduced every Congress since 2011 - creates an ITC for the first 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind facilities placed into service in this country. That long-term certainty will support approximately 600 offshore wind turbines.
“As more interest grows in offshore wind across the country, so does the chance of getting this legislation signed into law.
“As we continue to push for certainty in the tax code, we’re tackling offshore wind infrastructure hurdles, and we’re starting at the ports.
“As offshore wind technology advances, it is clear that our country needs to prepare our ports so that they can keep up with the developing technology to capture the economic potential of offshore wind.
“That’s why, in the recently passed Water Resources Development Act, we inserted a critical study intended to help prepare our ports for a new offshore wind future.
“The study tasks the Army Corps of Engineers, in consultation with other federal agencies and the states, to identify no less than three suitable U.S. ports that could accommodate the newest, innovative offshore wind technology. We also asked for a list of federal and state actions – including further research that may be needed – to help overcome current barriers to the development of innovative offshore wind ports in the United States.
“And these are just a few ways we’ve tried to build a nurturing environment for the offshore wind industry.
“Over the past decade, we’ve come far, and we’ve overcome so many hurdles working together. The finish line - for this race at least – is a project in federal waters, which is well in sight.
“But unlike the Caesar Rodney half-marathon, I’m not running this race – you are. Along with my colleagues, I’m here to help encourage you and to help you find the fastest path to the finish line, but it’s all of you who ultimately have to cross it.
“So I’ll leave you with these parting words: this last hill may be steep, but don’t be discouraged. Let’s work together, focus on getting through each day and never losing sight of the end goal.
“Know that you have supporters in Congress like me encouraging you every step of the way. With all of our hard work, we will have a project in federal waters in short order, and I’m certain the first one will create momentum for the next -- making each easier than the one before.
“And winning this race will be a critical win for all of us. It will be a win for our economy, our energy security, our health and our planet. I’ll end with an African proverb that I think is particularly relevant here: ‘If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together.’”