SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed an agreement to expand a state and federal partnership that has, over the last two years, paved the way for more than a dozen utility-scale solar energy projects and more than 130 renewable power projects in California.
These projects, which underwent rigorous environmental review, will generate thousands of construction jobs and power local economies. If all of these projects were built today, California would have enough renewable power to meet the state’s 33 percent goal.
The agreement broadens the state and federal partnership to formally include transmission projects and bring in new partners, including the California Independent System Operator, the California Public Utilities Commission and the California State Lands Commission. The agreement also renews a mutual commitment to landscape level planning efforts. The partnership, launched in 2009, works through a senior-level Renewable Energy Policy Group (REPG) to expedite review and processing of proposed projects.
“Now that our successful partnership has demonstrated that advancing renewable energy projects in California can be done, and can done in the right way, it is essential to ensure that transmission facilities to get this power to market are also part of the equation,” said Secretary Salazar. “As part of today’s agreement, which will expand our partnership on renewable energy, Interior and California will identify needed transmission projects to track, troubleshoot and shepherd. What’s happening in California is nothing short of a revolution – clean energy is creating jobs, powering our economies, and making believers out skeptics.”
“California has made tremendous progress in permitting renewable projects, and now we need to make sure the transmission lines that deliver this clean energy are built as quickly as possible,” said Governor Brown. “Putting these construction projects on a fast track will put people back to work and keep California a leader in renewable energy.”
The Secretary and Governor signed the Memorandum of Understanding on renewable energy at a solar project being built by Recurrent Energy in Elk Grove, a Sacramento metropolitan area community. One of North America’s largest solar development companies, Recurrent Energy’s three Sacramento-area projects have generated more than 220 jobs during construction.
Earlier in the day, Salazar, Interior Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes and the Governor discussed critical California water issues, reflecting their commitment to advancing the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and to taking action that will improve the health of the San Francisco Bay Delta ecosystem and the reliability of California’s water supply.
The REPG shepherded the renewable energy projects through a complex set of environmental reviews in time for appropriate proposals to take advantage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants, federal loan guarantees and production and investment tax credits. In 2012, the Policy Group will focus on the seven renewable energy and transmission projects in California on lands administered by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), BLM’s “priority projects”, and will also focus on additional projects on private lands, including five solar, one wind, and one geothermal.
Nationwide, Salazar has approved 27 commercial-scale renewable energy projects on public lands, or the transmission associated with them, since 2009, including 16 solar projects, four wind farms and seven geothermal facilities. Together these projects represent more than 6,500 megawatts, 12,500 jobs and when built, will power about 2.3 million homes.
The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is another major component of Interior’s and California’s renewable energy planning efforts. When completed, it is expected to further these objectives and provide binding, long-term endangered species permit assurances, while facilitating the review and approval of renewable energy projects in the Mojave and Colorado deserts in California.
The expanded partnership supports state and federal goals. In April 2011, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill No. 2X which increased California’s renewable energy portfolio standard to 33 percent of all retail electricity sales by 2020. The Obama Administration has encouraged the expanded use of renewable energy and launched initiatives to spur the development of these resources on U.S. public lands, most of which are managed by the Department of the Interior – which manages one-fifth of the land in the United States – and most of it in the West, including California.
Salazar’s Secretarial Order 3285A1, one of his first directives as Secretary, established a policy encouraging the production, development, and delivery of renewable energy as one of the Department’s highest priorities and directed Interior agencies to work collaboratively with other federal agencies, States, Tribes, local communities and private landowners to encourage the timely and responsible development of renewable energy and associated transmission, while protecting and enhancing the Nation’s water, wildlife, cultural, and other natural resources.