Secretary Jewell helps California meet its clean energy goals today while planning for tomorrow

California desert.

John Dittli.

As a new solar plant comes on line in the California Desert, agencies continue work on a first-of-a-kind clean energy and conservation plan.

California has long led the nation with its commitment to clean energy and recently announced even more ambitious clean energy goals for the state. Interior Secretary Jewell helped the state get one step closer to meeting those goals this week when she flipped the switch for a new solar energy project called Desert Sunlight. This solar project will bring clean power to about 160,000 homes by harnessing the sun on public lands in the California Desert.

Identifying smart places for energy development

The Department of the Interior, learning from projects like this one, is helping lead a first-of-a-kind effort to identify the most appropriate places in the desert for renewable energy development while conserving areas important for wildlife, wilderness, recreation and other values.

Recently Governor Brown called for half of the state’s electricity to be produced from cleaner sources like wind and solar. This effort will help in the fight against climate change while ensuring the state is moving away from dirty fossil fuels and toward more sustainable sources of power. Continuing to develop smarter energy practices will be critical as record heat and drought pose a huge threat to the economy, wild lands and wildlife of California and the west.

California’s plan must include strong commitments to increase rooftop solar installations, make our homes and businesses more efficient, and develop new renewable power plants. Our public lands will play an important role in meeting the demand for clean energy, and thus it’s important that large-scale energy projects like those being developed in the desert are guided to the most appropriate places.

The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan

An important effort is underway in the California desert—the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP)—that, when complete, will aid in the development of clean energy and land and wildlife protection in the future. The DRECP brings together desert residents, county leaders, industry and conservationists to find the best ways to plan for clean energy and conservation in the desert.

While the draft DRECP has room for improvement, including refining the proposed renewable energy development areas and ensuring special places are protected, the DRECP and the governor’s plan are complementary efforts to help fight climate change while protecting important places in the desert for generations to come.

Over the past decade great attempts have been made to develop a smarter path forward for solar energy, especially when it comes to our public lands. The goal of the DRECP has been aimed at increasing the amount of clean energy being produced on our lands while also putting in place protections for wildlife and wildlands that could be impacted by new construction from development. Alongside the ongoing efforts led by Senator Feinstein to complete the conservation picture in the California Desert, the DRECP can strike a balance between needed new development and protection of unique wildlife and wild places.

The DRECP shows promise in getting energy right in the California Desert. It is a timely and unparalleled opportunity for citizens, companies, counties and other stakeholders to help shape the future of the desert, our communities and our energy mix. In order to successfully implement the plan, a real commitment will be needed from all stakeholders—alongside strong leadership from Secretary Jewell and state and local leaders.