I’ve had the privilege of visiting nearly every state in the union, in each one meeting people from all walks of life who are working to make their communities better places to live, work and raise families. Their success, or the barriers that thwart it, often come down to one simple fact: Strong executive leadership in a state matters.
A strong, effective state leader nourishes productive partnerships with legislators, neighborhoods, faith communities, educators, businesses and unions. Strong executive leadership gets good things done.
Weak leadership, on the other hand, leaves a state and its people to fall behind.
Maryland’s offshore wind program offers the perfect example. Once a national leader on offshore wind, Maryland now plays in the minor leagues, while our neighbors play in the majors.
Massachusetts has authority to generate 5,600 megawatts of power offshore. New York has authority for 9,000 megawatts. New Jersey, 7,500 megawatts and Virginia more than 5,000 megawatts. This capacity represents a clean energy bonanza for millions of homes and businesses up and down the East Coast, not to mention tens of thousands of good paying jobs.
And Maryland? We were stuck at less than 400 megawatts until 2019, when Democrats in the state legislature passed a bill to increase authority to create an additional 1,200 megawatts.
Maryland should be at the 5,000 megawatts level — at a minimum. To put that into perspective, the Vineyard 1 project in Massachusetts moving to the construction stage this month will produce 800 megawatts, enough to power 400,000 homes in a state with a similar population to Maryland. We would be there too, if Gov. Larry Hogan made offshore wind a priority as other governors have done.
Example: Orsted, a world leader in offshore wind, has partnered with Sparrows Point resuscitating Tradepoint Atlantic to develop an offshore wind staging center. Parts made elsewhere will be delivered for assembly, and some metal will be fabricated at the former Beth Steel site for only Maryland.
Now, imagine this was just one step in the plan to make Maryland the epicenter of wind turbine production for the entire East Coast?
Strong leadership would have recognized the fact that the largest and most efficient offshore turbines are made overseas, and that presents an opportunity.
With real investments in our community college system, our union workforce, and our existing — and expandable — port, rail and manufacturing infrastructure both in the Baltimore area and on the Eastern Shore, we can become a unionized leader in manufacturing offshore turbines.
Today, the Biden administration is firmly committed to the clean energy agenda it campaigned on. Last week it committed $3 billion in debt capital to jumpstart construction with a goal of 30,000 MW produced offshore by 2030.This fact makes Maryland’s lack of executive leadership in the offshore wind industry all the more glaring, and the excuses shallower.
What of the supposed negatives of offshore wind? They simply haven’t come to fruition. Rhode Island’s Block Island project, 5 turbines generating 30 megawatts, today powers not only all the homes and businesses on Block Island, but sends significant excess capacity to the mainland. Real experience shows tourists come to see it, commercial fishermen safely avoid it, and recreational fishermen and charter boat captains come out in droves.
A bold, unwavering commitment to offshore wind is a win, win- win — for workers, businesses and the environment. While we have fallen behind other states in this area, the good news is that we can catch up. Time is of the essence. Governors in other key states see the urgency of now; Maryland needs to do the same.
Tom Perez (Twitter: @TomPerez) and his family live in Montgomery County. Until January, he served as chair of the Democratic National Committee. He has also served as U.S. secretary of labor for President Barack Obama, assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and on the Montgomery County Council.