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    Monday, February 26, 2024

    OPINION: Maybe Ørsted should go back to Denmark

    Anthony White, of Baltimore, a member of the Local 333 International Longshoremen's Association, joins other protesters as they scream at passing cars at State Pier on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. Union members from across the country gathered in New London to protest Ørsted’s work policies. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    From the start, Ørsted, the Danish utility giant trying to create a U.S. footprint for its offshore wind business, has been arrogant and clueless about how Americans might react to the import of a new industry.

    The big, clamorous union protests of the utility at State Pier on Wednesday is just the latest example of how tone deaf the foreign utility has been in trying to have its way in a country and culture it clearly doesn’t understand well.

    The protests also come at a crucial moment in the development of U.S. offshore wind, as the wheels seem to be already coming off the fledgling business.

    Indeed, Ørsted, along with other foreign utilities, are suggesting they will renege on negotiated contracts for delivery of offshore-generated electricity at agreed-on prices.

    Ørsted has even issued what amounts to an ultimatum to President Joe Biden, one the company has gotten governors like Connecticut’s Ned Lamont to agree to: Give us more federal subsidies or we walk.

    It seems Ørsted and the governors don’t want to let U.S. workers build the turbine parts here for federal subsidies to be granted. Let American taxpayers subsidize the building of them overseas, the utility says.

    Not only are U.S. citizens supposed to subsidize the foreign manufacturing of turbine parts, just like Connecticut residents borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to build Ørsted a staging pier, but electric customers are then supposed to swallow enormous new rate increases.

    Makes you think Connecticut ought to be planning for a new nuclear reactor at Millstone Station in Waterford instead of the data center proposed for the site that will swallow up so much of the state’s dwindling renewable energy.

    The fact that Ørsted has resorted to a like-it-or-leave-it ultimatum, as it tries to shrug off its disrespect for union longshoremen, is just one more example of how clumsily it has tried and failed to sway public opinion here.

    As fishermen began to react to the disruption offshore wind brings to historic fishing grounds, the Danish utility put some fishermen on the payroll, paying them for patrols around the offshore construction sites.

    That didn’t fool anyone, and the protests by fishermen are growing almost as loud and boisterous as the longshoremen were in New London on Wednesday.

    Pissing off fishermen and hardworking longshoremen, who have been keeping American ports working for more than a century, is not a good prelude to giving the U.S. president an ultimatum.

    Somehow, Ørsted once thought that renting a small second-floor office on Bank Street was going to somehow endear itself to New Londoners. At the same time, the utility refused to give the city a host deal until Mayor Michael Passero finally went to court to try to stop the State Pier project.

    Ørsted also sprinkled big grants among marine research institutions, like Mystic Aquarium, which got $1.25 million to “study” the effect of offshore wind on marine life.

    That’s like the governor paying me to write a column about him. Since he’s paying, he can assume it’s going to turn out nicely.

    Meanwhile, dead whales keep washing ashore in places where offshore wind work has begun, and real scientists, not ones who take tainted hush money, are trying to find out what’s going on.

    I think Ørsted is starting to sputter here, and it looks like the Danish executives might be running out of suckers like Gov. Lamont, who will agree to underwrite their profits, at any cost to taxpayers and electric customers.

    This is the opinion of David Collins

    d.collins@theday.com

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