The desert renewable energy conservation plan (DRECP)
The purpose of the DRECP is to conserve and manage plant and wildlife communities in the desert regions of California while facilitating the timely permitting of compatible renewable energy projects. The DRECP is a collaborative effort being developed under the California Natural Community Conservation Planning Act (NCCPA) and the Federal Endangered Species Act (FESA), and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).
Why the need for a DRECP?
Streamlined permitting of renewable energy projects is critical to meeting the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) established by state law. In addition to the RPS, Senate Bill 2X (Simitian), signed into law by Governor Edmund Brown, Jr. on April 12, 2011, as Public Resources Code § 25740, requires California to meet the 33 percent renewable energy portfolio standard by 2020. 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 compatible renewable energy projects in the Mojave and Colorado deserts in California.
In addition to the California effort, in 2005 the Federal Energy Policy Act renewed interest in developing utility-scale renewable energy facilities on federal public land. It established a target of approving 10,000 megawatts of non-hydropower renewable energy generation on public lands by 2015. The State of California and the Department of the Interior have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to facilitate conservation efforts and renewable energy development in a cooperative and timely manner.
The U.S. Congress also intensified the need for accelerated development of such projects with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provided economic benefits for renewable energy projects that began 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.
Benefits of Regional Conservation Planning
- Covered renewable energy project proceed in a manner that is compatible with the conservation of affected species and habitats
- Regional conservation plans are more cost-effective achieve better conservation results than piecemeal project-by-project, species-by-species permitting
- Regional conservation plans streamline, standardize and create predictable processes for endangered species permits, creating greater regulatory and economic certainty
- A broad range of interested parties can work collaboratively in an open, public process to develop a regional conservation plan
- Best available science is used
- Reliable funding sources for ecosystem restoration will be identified as part of the Plan
Who is preparing the DRECP?
The DRECP is being prepared by a collaboration of state and federal agencies, with input from local governments, environmental organizations, industry, and other interested parties. The Renewable Energy Action Team (REAT) is responsible for the development of the DRECP. The REAT was formed by a state executive order to streamline permit review and issuance time for renewable energy projects and to recommend avoidance measures or alternatives when appropriate. The State of California and the U.S. Department of the Interior signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to ensure implementation of California Executive Order S-14-08 and Interior Secretarial Order 3285 in a cooperative and timely manner.