Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on whether the sun rises in the east and sets in the west these days, but on Thursday the Obama administration finalized rules for siting renewable energy resources on public lands. Surprisingly, the new policy enjoys broad bipartisan support. Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress called on the Bureau of Land Management to finish the rule making process, which is designed to insure that the taxpayers receive fair market value for the use of public lands, whether for renewable energy or fossil fuels.
The new policy establishes a means of leasing low-conflict land. That means land that isn’t set aside for wildlife habitat or other uses . Leases will be offered through a competitive bidding process with formally established rates and fees. The process mimics how other energy industries, like oil, gas, and coal, operate on public lands to create predictability and stability for developers. Also, by instituting a fee system based on how much electricity is produced, this rule helps to ensure that taxpayers are receiving a fair return for the use of public lands.
“This new rule not only provides a strong foundation for the future of energy development on America’s public lands, but is an important and exciting milestone in our ongoing efforts to tap the vast solar and wind energy resources across the country,” says BLM Secretary Jewell said. “Through a landscape-level approach, we are facilitating responsible renewable energy development in the right places, creating jobs, and cutting carbon pollution for the benefit of all Americans.”
Renewable energy is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. Wind generation has tripled and solar generation has increased twenty-fold since 2009. Renewable energy generation in traditionally red states continues to soar at an unprecedented rate. In fact, renewables made up over two-thirds of new energy production in the United States last year, with places like Texas, Kansas, and Iowa leading the way in wind power.
“Transitioning from the antiquated right-of-way process for siting renewable energy projects to a competitive leasing process … should generate considerably more revenue for the taxpayer,” said 14 House members in a letter to BLM. “Adopting a modern approach to leasing should also benefit the renewable energy industry by streamlining the application process.”
“We hope this rule paves the way for increased solar development at predictable rates on public lands,” said Christopher Mansour, vice president of federal affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association in a statement. “BLM-managed land includes some of the world’s best solar resources, and they should be used to deliver clean, reliable, and cost-effective solar power to customers.”
Source: Think Progress Photo credit: California Green Design