Two years of working together to speed development of renewable energy on public lands left California and the federal government feeling good about the process. So good, in fact, that the state and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) agreed to expand their working agreement, which so far has paved the way for the approval of more than a dozen utility-scale solar energy projects, and more than 130 renewable power projects in California.
Since 2009, renewable energy projects on California’s public lands have been managed by a state-federal collaboration called the Renewable Energy Policy Group (REPG). It’s credited with successfully helping renewable energy project developers navigate the state’s complex set of environmental reviews in time to take advantage of federal loan guarantees, tax credits and grants from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. And it’s a lot of power we’re talking about: If all the projects approved in the past two years were completed and operating right now, California would already have reached its 2020 renewable portfolio standard of 33 percent clean energy.
The expanded memorandum of understanding [PDF] struck by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and California Gov. Jerry Brown includes changes that implement an expedited review process for transmission projects, and a renewed dedication to completing the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, the DOI said. The department said the plan will provide binding, long-term protection for endangered species, while facilitating the review and approval of renewable energy projects in the Mojave and Colorado deserts in California. The draft plan is currently open for public comment. Several new partners are also being brought on board, including the California Independent System Operator, the California Public Utilities Commission and the California State Lands Commission.