Global head of infrastructure
Atlantic Power Transmission
What is your organization’s role in the clean energy space?
Sean Klimczak: “Blackstone is committed to helping our portfolio companies navigate the energy transition by utilizing our capital, global reach, track record of successful project development and long-term investing expertise. Since 2019, Blackstone has committed $16 billion into investments related to the energy transition, and we see an opportunity to invest an estimated $100 billion across our businesses in energy transition and climate change solutions over the next decade. We believe we can deliver value by accelerating the transition to a lower-carbon future and expanding access to clean, affordable energy. We are uniquely positioned to do this in New Jersey and elsewhere, given our significant transmission development experience, which includes the Champlain Hudson Power Express project in New York and GridLiance. We hope the next step in our impact will be in New Jersey via our portfolio company Atlantic Power Transmission, which is bidding to provide invisible transmission to connect offshore wind to the existing power grid. Through APT, Blackstone is continuing its commitment to the clean energy transition, working to provide 3.6 gigawatts of transmission capacity to provide power to 1.5 million New Jersey ratepayers in a cost-effective, environmentally conscious and scalable manner, using lessons learned from our team’s collective energy infrastructure development experience.”
How does your organization promote and enable greater energy efficiency and sustainability?
SK: “Beyond more “traditional” investments such as our $3 billion equity commitment to invest in Invenergy, one of the world’s largest grid-scale renewable energy developers, we have also invested in companies that are taking innovative approaches to decarbonizing the world. Several of these companies are investing in sustainability right here in New Jersey. These include Applegreen, which operates New Jersey’s on-highway service plazas and is rolling out its Applegreen Electric charging platform for electric vehicles in the U.S. and western Europe, and Link Logistics, which is teaming with Altus power to remove 30,000 tons of carbon dioxide and prove 6,000 New Jersey customers with solar energy at a discount from empty Garden State warehouse rooftops. We’re also working to reduce carbon emissions by 15% in aggregate across new investments where we control the energy usage. APT’s projects to power 1.5 million homes will directly support decarbonization, and we are excited to bring use our experience and capital to play a leading role in achieving Gov. Phil Murphy’s ambitious clean energy goals.“
What are the biggest challenges New Jersey faces today in its efforts to transition from oil and gas to renewable energy?
SK: “Blackstone and APT applaud Gov. Murphy’s ambitious, but necessary, offshore wind targets of 7.5 GW of offshore wind energy by 2035. We applaud the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and PJM for their leadership in creatively tackling this complex planning project. Investing in this higher-capacity-factor renewable generation resource is critical for New Jersey, given that it is the most densely populated state in the country, as it seeks to replace existing baseload fossil fuel generation with intermittent renewable power that requires significant land for each megawatt of generation capacity. Facilitating offshore wind helps alleviate land constraints, but also creates new challenges. The next challenge that the state faces is how to build the offshore wind sector in a way that efficiently uses the limited available subsea floor while not adversely impacting the beachfront communities that are critical to New Jersey’s culture and economy. We believe that efficient, underground and open-access transmission systems that utilize commercially proven HVDC technology are key to safely delivering offshore wind power without local opposition. Offshore wind transmission projects should seek, at a minimum, to avoid upending beachfront communities, utilizing unwieldy shoreline structures and overcrowding New Jersey’s sea floor.“
How does your organization’s efforts play into economic and environmental advancements?
SK: “Perhaps the most important tenet in Blackstone’s greenfield project development efforts, which have included tens of billions of dollars invested in projects, is that we only win if the communities that we serve win alongside us. To that end, Blackstone is proud to have a strong track record of partnering with labor nationwide and investing into local communities. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in New Jersey. Given the nascent nature of the U.S. offshore wind sector, we identified a need from day one to proactively invest in workforce development programs: We have conditionally committed $50 million over 10 years, which will help seed local production opportunities to cement New Jersey’s first mover advantage in this space. APT’s efforts are in partnership with our New Jersey Union Coalition, which includes the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters; IUOE Locals 825 & 25; Iron Workers Local 399; and IBEW Local 456. We’ve been humbled by the public support of many key labor leaders, including Bill Sproule, Greg Lalevee, Joe Egan, Richard Sweeney and Kevin Duncan. In total, APT’s 3.6 GW transmission project is expected to generate $1.5 billion in local economic benefits and enable 1,000 direct jobs per year during five construction years.”
What do you see as New Jersey’s biggest long-term obstacles to getting to net zero by 2050?
Andy Geissbuehler: “Reaching net zero by 2050 requires strong leadership and commitment to plan for scale, accelerate local infrastructure building and secure the global supply chain’s long lead components. Planning for scale by implementing the offshore wind strategic plan, a key to clean energy independence and covering about half of the state’s electricity consumption. Launching the nation’s first planned transmission approach addresses the most significant challenge of delivering clean offshore wind energy to New Jersey homes. This holistic approach prevents a project-by-project “low-hanging fruit” transmission approach, what would have led to excessive HVAC cables crowding seafloors and uncoordinated cable landfalls burdening New Jersey’s beautiful beaches. New Jersey is rapidly launching local infrastructure, such as the well-progressed Paulsboro monopile facility and the scalable New Jersey Wind Port, enabling windfarm component marshalling as well as expanding into a manufacturing port. Securing long lead components, which are in high demand globally, can be derisked by contracting strong partners for windfarm generation and transmission. Supply is especially tight for efficient, large-scale transmission systems — Atlantic Power Transmission has selected and secured engineering, procurement and construction partners and critical components before bid submission, an unusual approach but a necessary measure to keep New Jersey’s energy transition on track.“