Interior Dept. Proposes Competitive Leasing Process To Help Spur Renewables In The West

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The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has announced a new competitive leasing process by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) meant to help spur solar and wind energy development on public lands in the West.

‘This competitive process will encourage access to leasing opportunities for renewable energy projects, create greater certainty for developers and provide a fair market return to American taxpayers for the use of public lands,’ says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. ‘The competitive proposal will help move the United States toward a cleaner environment – cutting carbon pollution and creating American jobs, while supplying communities with reliable and affordable power."’

According to the DOI, the proposed regulations would promote the use of ‘designated leasing areas,’ such as the BLM's Solar Energy Zones. The rule would establish competitive processes, terms and conditions (including rental and bonding requirements) for solar and wind energy development right-of-ways (ROWs) both inside and outside the designated leasing areas and provide incentives for leases in designated leasing areas. The DOI notes that existing regulations limit the competitive process to situations involving overlapping ROW applications.

As part of President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan, announced in June 2013, the president directed the DOI to approve at least 20 GW of renewable energy capacity on public lands by 2020. The department notes that it had already approved more than 10 GW of solar, wind and geothermal energy projects on public lands between 2009 and 2013.

The competitive leasing proposal has been published in the Federal Register, kicking off a 60-day comment period that closes on Dec. 1.

This announcement comes just days after the DOI and a California state agency released the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. According to the DOI, the plan is a landscape-level blueprint for conservation and streamlined renewable energy development, covering more than 22 million acres in the California desert. However, the California Wind Energy Association has voiced its concern, claiming that the draft plan, as currently proposed, "could end most wind energy development in California."

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