California, Nation Moving Ahead with Renewable Energy Goals

“Here, renewable energy is not a fuel source, it’s a religion,” California Public Utilities Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon told CSG’s Energy and Environment Policy Task Force Friday.

With some of the richest renewable energy zones in the United States, California also has the most ambitious renewable energy standard in the country. California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which evolved in three pieces of legislation over the course of the last decade, requires investor-owned utilities and electric service providers to increase procurement from eligible renewable energy resources to 33 percent by 2020.

Meeting the goals represents a significant challenge for Simon’s regulatory agency, he told the task force. Fortunately, as other speakers said Friday, there has been an increased level of cooperation between state and federal agencies in recent years that is helping to streamline and speed permitting processes for renewable energy projects.

Tom Pogacnik, deputy state director, Division of Natural Resources in the Bureau of Land Management’s California Office, said there has been an increase in work across jurisdictional and administrative boundaries, more collaborative decision making, a greater sharing of federal/state/industry expertise and other developments that have created a better process.

With the Obama administration’s focus on an all-of-the-above energy strategy that has set a goal of siting 11,000 megawatts of renewable/alternative energy projects on federal land and other targets, such process improvements may be an important key to overall success.

At the federal level, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is issuing leases to manage the development of wind energy and issuing rights-of-way for the transmission of power from renewable energy, among other tasks. The bureau’s Ellen Aronson told the task force about key projects underway, including a commercial lease the bureau has issued to construct and operate an offshore wind facility in federal waters off Cape Cod, Mass.