Back on November 17, 2008, just two weeks after Obama’s election, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued Executive Order S-14-08, which required that all retail sellers of electricity in California serve 33 percent of their load with renewable energy by 2020. This increase in the State’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) made California the leader in renewable energy standards.
As part of the order, the California Energy Commission and the California Department of Fish and Game agreed to expedite the development of RPS-eligible renewable energy resources in the state. The two agencies formed the Renewable Energy Action Team (REAT), which created a “one-stop” process for permitting renewable energy generation power plants. The federal Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the two state agencies to support the REAT.
In March 2009, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed Order 3285 establishing the development of renewable energy as a priority for the Department of the Interior. The Act encourages the production, development, and delivery of renewable energy as one of the Department’s highest priorities.
Then in October 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a memorandum of understanding with Secretary Salazar to expedite the siting of renewable energy projects in California on federal land. California was the first state to sign an MOU with the Department of the Interior to cooperatively develop long-term renewable energy plans and to sheppard eligible projects through state and federal permitting processes. These eligible projects can receive 30 percent federal tax credits under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
Schwarzenegger’s Executive Orders also initiated the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) process. The DRECP aims to protect and conserve the natural resources within the Mojave and Colorado Desert regions. It also allows solar and other qualified RPS energy development in a manner that avoids or minimizes environmental impacts.
Under the DRECP, California Department of Fish and Game and US Fish and Wildlife Service will help identify the “best” areas to site renewable energy, while avoiding conflicts with endangered species and sensitive areas. That report is due out by December 2010.
To achieve the common goal of siting more renewable energy facilities, various state and federal agencies must work together to balance energy and environmental needs.