On May 18, 2022, the California Energy Commission met to discuss its draft report to evaluate and quantify the maximum feasible capacity of offshore wind to achieve reliability, ratepayer, employment, and decarbonization benefits and establish megawatt offshore wind planning goals for 2030 and 2045. The report is the first of three interim work products that California AB 525 directs CEC to prepare. By the end of this year, the CEC must complete and submit a preliminary assessment of economic benefits as they relate to seaport investments and workforce development needs, and complete and submit a permitting roadmap. The ultimate requirement of AB 525 is to require, by June 30, 2023, the CEC, in coordination with federal, state, and local agencies and a wide variety of stakeholders, to 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.

Highlights of the Report

The CEC established a preliminary planning goal of 3 GW for 2030 and, depending on advances in technology, 10-15 GW for 2045. The CEC emphasized that these are merely planning goals, and they do not create procurement requirements or establish a minimum level of procurement. Three gigawatts of power could come from either a complete buildout of Morro Bay Wind Energy Area (WEA) or a combination of partial buildouts in the Morro Bay WEA and the Humboldt WEA.

AB 525 requires the identification of suitable sea space for wind energy areas in federal waters sufficient to accommodate the offshore wind megawatt planning goals. However, the CEC believes that identification of suitable sea space is a prerequisite for determining the maximum feasible capacity. Therefore, CEC has not finalized a maximum feasible capacity, but it did identify 21.8 GW as the maximum technically feasible offshore wind potential, based on existing literature and studies.

AB 525 also requires the CEC to consider 12 planning goals when determining the maximum feasible capacity and planning goals. The CEC found that five factors were most significant:

  1. The findings of the 2021 SB 100 Joint Agency Report.
  2. The need to initiate long-term transmission and infrastructure planning to facilitate delivery of offshore wind energy to Californians.
  3. The need for reliable renewable energy that accommodates California’s shifting peak load.
  4. The generation profile of offshore wind off the California coast.
  5. The potential impacts on coastal resources, fisheries, Native American and Indigenous peoples, and national defense, and strategies for addressing those potential impacts.

The CEC found that these factors support the development of offshore wind, although it acknowledged that significant questions remain around the requirements to mitigate and avoid impacts to coastal resources, fisheries, and Native American and Indigenous peoples.

The CEC also found that offshore wind is generally complementary to other renewables, but transmission upgrades will be required to support the full planning levels. The CEC noted that in March 2022, the ISO Board approved a 10-year transmission plan with significant new investment, including 23 transmission projects to reinforce the system and help meet the state’s clean energy targets. According to the ISO, the existing transmission system in the central coast area can accommodate 5 GW to 6 GW of offshore wind, including 1.6 GW from the Humboldt WEA and 2.3 GW from Morro Bay WEA.

Public comments at the meeting were generally positive and supportive of developing floating offshore wind. Additional comments and feedback can be submitted until May 23, 2022. New comments and the revised draft will be considered at the May 24 CEC Business Meeting, where the report is expected to be adopted ahead of the June 1 deadline.