An Interview with Ken Bowes

VP of Siting and Permitting for Eversource

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Eversource is the largest electric utility in New England.  We have almost 4 million customers now.  Our history traces back to one of the original Edison Electric companies on the electric side and even longer on the water side, back to the 1850s.  We’ve been serving New England for more than 150 years. 

We see the offshore wind business as a natural complement to our whole sustainability focus.  We’re ranked the Number 1 energy efficiency utility in the country.  We just received awards for being the top sustainability utility as well.  We’re really focused on transitioning to the clean air, clean water and clean energy environment. 

We’ve made a big move into offshore wind through our partnership with Orsted.  This has been a great partnership so far.  I think we sought each other out.  The partnership includes the planned Revolution Wind, South Fork and Sunrise offshore wind farms.  We now own three offshore wind leases jointly with Orsted off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  We think that there is fantastic potential in serving the clean energy needs for New England and New York as they move towards 100% clean energy. 

Specifically, we own lease blocks 486, 487 and 500.  Those are the three closest lease areas to New England as you go down through that stack of seven lease areas. 

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Eversource believes strongly in developing the domestic offshore wind supply chain.  I think our partnership with Orsted makes us large enough to influence the supply chain in a positive manner.  The first thing we will look at is the ports, including Providence and Quonset in Rhode Island.  We’ve made a very large commitment to New London, Connecticut, as well.  So that’s a key thing – having the ports in place. 

Then obviously there’s manufacturing.  Certain things can be done early on, such as assembling components from abroad, but certainly secondary steel is in our mind as a near term part of the supply chain that can be domestically sourced from the start.  Whether it’s using New Bedford, the port of Albany for the New York projects, Quonset, etc. – secondary steel is part of the process that can be domestically sourced. 

As we look further, we’ve publicly announced a large framework agreement with Nexans for cable.  They have a facility in South Carolina that we will be developing and infusing the capital necessary for them to source cables here in the United States.  So we’ll get a domestic supply.  Those are some of the early things that we’re doing.  Ultimately, we’re looking at integrating additional parts of the supply chain here for obvious reasons like the economic development opportunities, but it also de-risks the projects for the sourcing.  The amount and quantity of vessels needed to do these projects will ultimately become a constraint if we don’t plan properly.  That’s an area that we’re looking into in the future as well.  The Jones Act complicates that but also creates an opportunity for us to develop vessels here in the United States.  I’d say that’s a future opportunity that we’re exploring at this point. 

Other parts of the supply chain include foundations.  If we could encourage a domestic supplier to look to that type of steel – size, quantity, proximity to a port, etc.  That’s another opportunity that I think is very good because again the transportation costs involved in foreign supply of foundations and the flexibility that it would provide our projects.  It would certainly be a benefit to the United States to have domestic steel used for the foundations.

The last area is the wind turbines themselves.  Obviously, GE gives us an opportunity, but also Siemens and Vestas, to get some manufacturing here from Europe.  That is not something that we’ve seen in our early projects, they’ll probably be sourced overseas.  Hopefully in the next 5-10 years, we can encourage one or more domestic turbine suppliers to build here in the United States as well. 

We’re also working to develop the local workforce.  We have about 8,500 employees in New England.  Most of them are in the union.  We have a strong union focus.  Organized labor has been a friend to the company and has built most of the infrastructure that we have. 

We have a long history with several of the unions here in New England -- the IBEW, ironworkers, UWUA, etc.  We have very strong union relationships.  We committed early on to using union labor for all of the onshore work and we intend to go forward in offshore wind with that as well. 

In transitioning to the offshore, we realized that we need to have a skilled and trained workforce here in the United States, so we’ve made some large commitments to that.  These include, in Rhode Island, to build an operations & maintenance facility in the Quonset area.  We’ll also build a regional hub in Port Jefferson, New York.  We’ve committed to a national training center on Long Island.  We plan to work with the New England unions as to how that will unfold as far as training Rhode Island workers at a New York training center and then having them work in Rhode Island.  A lot of the pieces are being put in place for that now and we’re working with the building trades as well.  We’re taking a comprehensive look at how we can integrate US-based labor with European manufacturers to construct, operate and maintain the facilities. 

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