California Streamlines Approvals for Renewable Energy Projects
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order on November 17 to streamline the state's approval process for renewable energy projects. Executive Order S-14-08 requires the California Resources Agency to lead a joint collaboration between the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the California Department of Fish and Game to create a "one-stop" permitting process. The collaboration, called the Renewable Energy Action Team, will allow for concurrent reviews of permit applications, and will also work with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help expedite the permit process. The new team will also identify top priority areas in California for renewable energy development and will start a planning process to allow appropriate development in those areas while protecting habitats and species. The process, called Natural Community Conservation Planning, will first be applied to the Mojave and Colorado Desert regions, where large solar power projects are under consideration.
The executive order also establishes a new renewable energy target for California, calling for all retail sellers of electricity to draw on renewable energy for 33% of their electricity supply by 2020. Executive orders don't have the force of law over utilities, but the order does instruct all state government agencies, such as the California Public Utilities Commission, to take all appropriate actions to implement the new target in all regulatory proceedings. That puts the wheels in motion to require utilities to meet the new target. The state currently has a legislative mandate for utilities to draw on renewable energy for 20% of their electricity supply by 2010. Meanwhile, state agencies are directed to keep the 33% target in mind as they handle the siting, permitting, and procurement for renewable energy power plants and transmission lines. See the governor's press release, which includes the full text of the executive order.