Op-ed by Dr. John Polimeni, Schenectady New York Councilmember, Professor Ecological Economics

October 14, 2022

Sustainability is key for our environment. Think about it in these terms – everything we produce comes from the environment, and there are limited resources in the environment. At some point we will run out of those resources without prudent action. When we talk about energy supply, even the biggest proponents of fossil fuels will acknowledge that supply will dwindle. In simple economic terms, the law of supply and demand tells us that as that happens energy costs will increase substantially.

Dr. John Polimeni, Schenectady New York Councilmember, Professor Ecological Economics

Now, consider sustainable energy. Sustainable energy is a form of energy that meets our demand for energy without the danger of getting expired or depleted and can be used repeatedly. Then when we take into consideration that with sustainable energy, we also do not need to worry about the environmental degradation that occurs from greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable energy becomes that much more attractive.

One of the more important sources of sustainable energy is wind power.

Developing our offshore wind energy supply creates jobs and helps develop local economies. Major investments will be spent in materials and labor to build and maintain the facilities necessary for offshore wind energy. This means high-paying new jobs which results in more disposable income that will be spent in our local economies.

It will also mean an increase local tax base as skilled labor moves into neighboring cities, towns, and villages, increasing the demand for permanent and rental housing. The result is more revenue for those municipalities in the form of additional sales tax as property tax as property values increase. This in turn, can be used for further economic development projects, such as roads and water infrastructure which will also create additional tax revenue.

Environmental conditions will also get better as air and water quality improves. Better air and water quality results in less healthcare spending on respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological diseases, as well as cancer, just to name a few.  All this shows that the direct and indirect economic benefits of offshore wind is enormous from the resulting massive multiplier effect.

To provide a little information on the level of economic activity we are talking about, according to the American Wind Energy Association, by 2030, operating offshore wind capacity will be between 20,000 to 30,000 MW, creating up to 83,000 jobs and $12.5 to $25 billion in economic output.

In New York State 12 port sites have been identified to achieve the energy output target by 2035.

According to the NY State Energy Research and Development Agency, direct economic benefit, should this full-build alternative come to fruition, include more than 3,000 job-years (one job-year equals one job per year) during construction and more than 1,300 job-years every year to operate and maintain the projects. An additional 1,080 job-years is expected in indirect economic benefit in social and community investment expenditures.

Some will argue that the economies-of-scale aren’t sufficient to get wind power costs to an affordable level for consumers.

However, the Inflation Reduction Act provides incentives of approximately $60 billion in investments and additional tax credits to renewable energy providers for long-term expansion of clean energy projects that will lead to the technological improvements that will create better economies-of-scale resulting in reduced costs.

Now that the Inflation Reduction Act is law, the United States is on track to reduce emissions 40 percent by 2030. The estimated results are 3,900 lives saved per year by 2030 that would have otherwise occurred as a result of poor air quality, 1.5 million new jobs in construction, manufacturing, and the service industries, and a reduction in household energy costs of up to $1,800 per year according to Rewiring America.

As you can see, the transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to other forms of energy such as offshore wind becomes not only attractive economically but also necessary as we diversify our energy supply.

The world has seen the weaponization of energy in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The importance of energy has also been shown in how the agricultural sector is impacted and in inflationary costs.

Offshore wind isn’t just about the environment; it’s also about securing our energy and economic futures.