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Will Hazelip

Pursuing Environmental Justice in the Northeast

8th September 2023 Will Hazelip, President, National Grid Ventures, US Northeast 4 min read

In 2023 alone, we have already seen over 15 climate disasters across the US ranging from wildfires in Maui to flooding in California to cold waves in the Northeast, where National Grid Ventures (NGV) operates. Many of these disasters have destroyed the homes of those that cannot afford to easily rebuild, making a lasting impact on environmental justice communities. For NGV, these climate events are a stark reminder of the responsibility we have before us. As a clean energy company, we must build the clean energy infrastructure that will slow climate change and make sure people do not have to lose their communities to a climate disaster.

NGV is returning to Climate Week NYC one year after releasing the Northeast Clean Energy Vision, a plan to create hubs across the region where multiple clean energy technologies like solar, offshore wind, and battery storage are working together. In the past year, we have made significant progress. NGV has submitted two offshore wind proposals to New York and New Jersey under our joint venture, Community Offshore Wind. We have celebrated reducing 20,000 tons of emissions from a solar project on Long Island.  Under the Northeast Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub, we joined six states and over 100 partners in submitting a hydrogen hub proposal to the US Department of Energy. Last, in our joint venture, NY Transco, we have been selected for a transmission project called Propel NY that will carry clean energy from offshore wind throughout Long Island and to other parts of the state. 

From the inception of every project, we ask ourselves how we can deliver clean, fair, affordable energy to the communities we will serve in the Northeast, leaving no one behind in the race to a fossil free future. Climate Week NYC is an opportunity to discuss what can be accomplished in the coming year to find solutions for both accelerating the clean energy future and achieving environmental justice.

NGV fishing trip

Why is environmental justice so important to NGV and its operations?

Regardless of who you are, where you live or what your income is, having clean air and water are fundamental rights. At NGV, we have an opportunity to improve quality and access to these essentials as we build clean energy systems in Northeast communities. We must ensure that the clean energy technology we invest in and the projects we build bring tangible benefits to all communities we serve, but especially environmental justice communities who deserve a helping hand.

How does NGV take environmental justice communities into consideration when planning out infrastructure projects? 

Environmental justice communities have historically been overburdened by pollution and denied the opportunity of benefiting from clean energy infrastructure. NGV is committed to breaking that cycle. 

When we go into a community to build clean energy infrastructure, a big part of our planning process is talking to the people that live in the community. What are their needs and concerns? How can we help? For example, when we developed Calverton Solar in Riverhead, NY, a designated disadvantaged community, from speaking with the town, we understood there was a variety of needs from wireless internet for public school students to open space protection. We made a $1.5 million community benefit payment, allowing the town to decide where the dollars were allocated because they live there and know where the need is.

What sort of investments does NGV make in environmental justice communities?

Community Offshore Wind, our joint venture between NGV and RWE, to develop offshore wind in the New York-New Jersey Bight brings a number of creative environmental justice solutions in our proposals. One area we focus on in both our New York and New Jersey proposals is childcare financial assistance for offshore wind workers and trainees. These multi-million-dollar programs are designed not just for those who will work on our project, but anyone working or training in offshore wind throughout New York and New Jersey. This is an example of bringing economic benefits of the clean energy industry to communities that can benefit the most, providing the resources to succeed. If our proposals are selected, these programs will increase access to jobs for so many families that otherwise couldn’t be a part of this new industry.  

NGV MLK Center

What are three things energy companies should consider to work toward environmental justice?

  1. Environmental justice should not be an afterthought where energy companies develop clean energy infrastructure and consider impacts later. Community impact must be addressed at the onset.
  2. Get to know the communities you’ll be serving. At NGV, we don’t assume we know what communities need. If we plan to build or operate clean energy infrastructure in an area, we meet with community members and listen to what they need. Then we work to deliver it. An example of that is when we met with community leaders, we heard there was a need for childcare to support working parents, which is where the aforementioned childcare program originated. 
  3. Provide long-term solutions. The projects we build are meant to last decades, so community benefits in disadvantaged communities need to match that longevity.

National Grid Ventures is a Silver Partner at Climate Week NYC. Register virtually and join National Grid Ventures at Climate Week NYC September 17-24.