THE DESERT RENEWABLE ENERGY CONSERVATION PLAN (DRECP)
Senate Bill No. 2X (Joe Simitian, 2011-2012 1st Ex. Sess.), signed into law by Governor Brown on April 12, 2011, increases California’s renewable energy portfolio standard to 33 percent of all retail electricity sales by 2020 and Executive Order # S-14-08 mandated the development of the DRECP, a major component of California's renewable energy planning efforts. The DRECP, when completed, 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.
To oversee the implementation of the DRECP, a Renewable Energy Action Team (REAT) was formed consisting of the California Energy Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were signed by the participating agencies. Others joining the team include the California Public Utilities Commission, California Independent System Operator, National Parks Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Defense.
Four major products and the overall schedule (PDF file, 187kb) are being developed under the direction of the REAT:
- Best Management Practices and Guidance Manual (PDF file, 281 pages, 28 mb): Desert Renewable Energy Projects has been completed.
- Draft Conservation Strategy that clearly identifies and maps areas for renewable energy project development and areas intended for long-term natural resource conservation as a foundation for the DRECP. (Please see the DRECP Framework Conservation Strategy and starting point maps.)
- Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan -- a joint state and federal Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP) and part of one or more Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP).
- DRECP Draft and Final joint state and federal Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement.
Independent Science Advisors provided independent scientific input into the Conservation Strategy and the DRECP. The final report has been completed by the advisors. Additional science input is expected as the process moves forward.
A DRECP Stakeholder Committee (PDF file) has been established to inform the state and federal REAT agencies on the development of the DRECP and to provide a forum for public participation and input. The stakeholders represent the interests of the counties in the desert region, renewable energy developers, environmental organizations, electric utilities, and Native American organizations. Specific working groups, comprised of DRECP Stakeholder committee members, have been established and meet regularly to address specific issues such as covered species, covered activities, resource mapping, and cultural resources.
The DRECP is a Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP), which will help provide for effective protection and conservation of desert ecosystems while allowing for the appropriate development of renewable energy projects. It will provide long-term endangered species permit assurances to renewable energy developers and provide a process for conservation funding to implement the DRECP. It will also serve as the basis for one or more HCPs under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
WHY THE NEED FOR A DRECP?
In 2009, only about 12 percent of California's retail electric load is served by renewable energy sources. Senate Bill X1-2 (Joe Simitian) (Pub. Resources Code, § 25740), increased California’s renewable energy portfolio standard to 33 percent by 2020. The DRECP is expected to play a major role in meeting the 33% goal.
In addition to the California effort, in 2005 the federal Energy Security Policy Act renewed interest in developing utility-scale renewable energy facilities on federal public land. It established a target of approving 10,000 MW of non-hydropower renewable energy generation on public lands within 10 years of the Act. The United States Congress also intensified the need for accelerated development of such projects with passage in early 2009 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which confers economic benefits on renewable energy projects that begin construction before the end of 2010.
While the state and federal governments are committed to developing compatible renewable energy generation facilities and related transmission infrastructure to achieve these requirements and goals, they are also committed to conserving biological and natural resources within the state. The desert regions of California provide extensive renewable energy resource potential. They also support extraordinary biological and other natural resources of great value, including numerous threatened and endangered plant and animal species. The DRECP is intended to advance state and federal conservation goals in these desert regions while also facilitating the timely permitting of renewable energy projects under applicable State and federal laws.
The DRECP will encompass development of solar thermal, utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV), wind, and other forms of renewable energy and associated infrastructure such as electric transmission lines necessary for renewable energy development within the Mojave and Colorado desert regions of California.
The planning goals of the DRECP include:
- Provide for the long-term conservation and management of Covered Species within the DRECP Planning Area;
- Preserve, restore, and enhance natural communities and ecosystems that support Covered Species within the DRECP Planning Area;
- Build on the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones identified by Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI);
- Further identify the most appropriate locations within the DRECP Planning Area for the development of utility-scale renewable energy projects, taking into account potential impacts to threatened and endangered species and sensitive natural communities;
- Provide a means to implement Covered Activities in a manner that complies with the Natural Communities Conservation Planning Act (NCCPA), Federal Endangered Species Act (FESA), California Endangered Species Act (CESA), National Environmental Policy Act, California Environmental Quality Act, and other relevant laws;
- Provide a basis for the issuance of Take Authorizations allowing the lawful Take of Covered Species incidental to Covered Activities;
- Provide for issuance of Take permits for other species that are not currently listed but which may be listed in the future;
- Provide a comprehensive means to coordinate and standardize mitigation and compensation requirements for Covered Activities within the Planning Area;
- Provide a framework for a more efficient process by which proposed renewable energy projects within the Planning Area may obtain regulatory authorizations and which results in greater conservation values than a project-by-project, species-by-species review would have;
- Provide durable and reliable regulatory assurances, as appropriate, under the NCCPA and the FESA for Covered Activities that occur within the DRECP Planning Area; and
- Identify and incorporate climate change adaptation research, management objectives, and/or policies into the final plan document.
DRECP Acting Executive Director
California Energy Commission
Scott Flint, DRECP Program Manager
Elliot Chasin, Renewable Energy Program
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Ken Corey, Assistant Field Supervisor
Palm Springs Fish and Wildlife Office
Phone: 760 322-2070 ext. 201
Vicki Campbell, DRECP Program Manager
Filing Written Comments on the DRECP or DRECP NEPA/CEQA Documents
File written comments to the California Energy Commission Docket Office, Docket Number 09-RENEW EO-01, and indicate DRECP and the document you are commenting on in the subject line or first paragraph of your comments. If you are commenting on a DRECP NEPA/CEQA (environmental review) document, include DRECP NEPA/CEQA in the subject line or first paragraph of your comments. Hand deliver or mail an original copy of your comments to:
California Energy Commission
Dockets Office, MS-4
Docket No. 09-RENEW EO-01
1516 Ninth Street
Sacramento, CA 95814-5512
If filing your written comments electronically, please include your name or organization’s name in the file name in either Microsoft Word format or as a Portable Document (PDF) to [email@example.com]. Include DRECP and the DRECP document you are commenting on in the subject line or first paragraph of your comments. If you are commenting on a DRECP NEPA/CEQA (environmental review) document, include DRECP NEPA/CEQA in the subject line or first paragraph of your comments.
For your convenience, you may use this comment form to submit comments.
News media, please call: California Energy Commission Media & Public Communications Office at 916-654-4989.