Plan to reconsider Calif. desert protection plan will hurt state’s renewable efforts
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My work is guided by a vision for a world powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Here in California, we are at the forefront of making that vision a reality for the world’s sixth largest economy and have achieved remarkable progress toward building a 100 percent renewable grid. For example, on Feb. 18, 2018, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) — the state’s independent energy grid operator — determined that over 71 percent of California’s power load was served by renewable resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal and small scale hydro power (under 30 MWs).

Here in the West, we’re fortunate to have wide open landscapes to enjoy for recreation, natural beauty, plentiful sunshine, abundant wind, and rich geothermal resources that can fuel the renewable energy revolution. The pathway to 100 percent renewable energy must include innovative solutions for building the generation and transmission assets needed for a strong low-carbon economy, while protecting the natural landscapes and wildlife of California and the West. These solutions must protect natural lands and wildlife, including those most at risk from climate change. Solutions must also reduce risks and delays in renewable energy and transmission development needed to maintain the steady pace of clean energy and infrastructure deployment. We are seeing many of these solutions unfold in real time as our cities are becoming hubs for electric vehicles, solar, and storage.

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That’s why I’m stunned by the Trump administration’s proposal to reopen the landmark Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), an action that would unnecessarily disrupt the thoughtfully crafted blueprint for conservation, renewable energy, transmission, recreation, and other uses, of public land in the California Desert.

The DRECP was developed through an eight-year collaborative process involving local residents and recreation users, federal, state and local government agencies, utilities, renewable energy developers and conservationists. The end result yielded more than 400,000 acres of land where renewable energy development is incentivized. The State of California has confirmed that the plan provides more than enough land to help California achieve its bold renewable energy and climate goals.

Reopening the plan will inject a cloud of destructive uncertainty, and have cascading impacts on the ability to plan and build the energy infrastructure and facilities needed for our 100 percent renewable energy future. The proposal is a waste of time and taxpayer resources that will only result in delay and litigation.

We have a surplus of carbon and a shortage of political will, made clear by this administration’s preference for policies and funding decisions that benefit fossil fuel producers. Instead of re-examining important renewable energy policy and planning innovations, like the DRECP, the administration should be focused on directing resources to effective plan implementation, in order to realize the larger environmental and local economic opportunities that renewable energy and infrastructure investments create.

California is demonstrating that the solutions and tools needed to build a low carbon economy powered by 100 percent renewable energy exist. Now we need to ensure certainty to communities, planners, investors and energy project developers that we are able to put the plan to work and build out the clean energy future our children and grandchildren deserve. That’s what the current DRECP is designed to do. Let’s move forward, not backward, and let the plan work.

Angelina Galiteva is the Founder and Board Chair of Renewables 100 Policy Institute and a Board Member of the California Independent System Operator. Her industry experience includes serving as Executive Director of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power as head of its Green LA, Environmental Affairs and New Product Development Organization.