Renewable energy advocates call for guidelines to spur clean energy and avoid conflict on public lands

Organizations committed to seeing environmentally responsible clean energy succeed on public lands sent a letter to Secretary Jewell urging finalization of an Interior Department rulemaking.

The wind and solar leasing rule would improve how wind and solar energy projects are approved on public lands – and ultimately establish a framework for a stable and long lasting program for clean energy.

In the letter, we called for:

Addressing environmental issues early in the process and identifying areas with high renewable energy resource potential can help plan for transmission and allow projects to move forward quickly when the market is right.

One opportunity critical to establishing an enduring renewable energy program for public lands is the Department’s proposed wind and solar leasing rule-making. Clean energy businesses and utilities need stable, predictable policies and regulations to invest in projects. Greater confidence in the process, timing and costs for developing wind and solar energy on public lands is needed.

A series of individual policies have been issued to create a program for wind and solar energy on public lands under President Obama’s tenure and now a few final pieces need to be put in place to ensure consistency from one administration to another.  The wind and solar leasing rule-making helps cement progress to date.

Specifically the proposed rule would:

  • modernize the permitting system by putting in place a competitive leasing system, as is the practice for other types of domestic energy development
  • balance the growing demand for clean energy development with the need to minimize conservation conflicts by incentivizing development in “Smart from the Start” places called designated leasing areas, like solar energy zones
  • provide certainty and predictability for energy companies  by putting in place standard operating procedures for developing renewable energy.

For centuries, coal, oil and gas has dominated energy development on public lands, resulting in significant pollution and a checkered history of leasing decisions that have put development at odds with the stewardship of wildlife, wildlands and recreational opportunities.

Fortunately, wind and solar energy have emerged as a growing renewable resource and opportunity for public lands. Under President Obama’s tenure, solar projects have been built on public lands for the first time ever, requiring guidance and policies to continue advancing clean energy.

Clean energy projects are coming online faster than ever before on public lands. Timely finalization of the wind and solar leasing rule-making is critically important to ensuring these projects are sited in places that are likely to succeed and will avoid conflicts  and minimize impacts to wildlands and wildlife habitat, as called for in our letter.

Read the full letter to Secretary Jewell here.

Read our Brighter Future report here.