Energy Commissioner Douglas Discusses DRECP with Environmental Journalists

Imagine driving 60 miles in one direction, and then making a right hand turn and driving another 10.

That is an analogy that describes the 600 square miles of public land that can be potentially used for renewable energy in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP).

California Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas spoke recently at the 2016 Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Sacramento during a panel discussion on renewable energy on public lands.

Her appearance comes on the heels of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) finalization of the first phase of the DRECP earlier this month.

The panel included Shannon Eddy, executive director of the Large-scale Solar Association and David Lamfrom, director of the California Desert and National Wildlife programs for the National Parks Conservation Association. Douglas’ analogy was meant to convey the enormity of the area that could be used for things like solar, and a response to concerns from the solar industry that not enough land was set aside for renewable energy in the first phase of the DRECP.

“The thing we were able to do with the DRECP… was find a middle ground between the drive to address climate change with renewable energy and the desire to keep the desert largely pristine,” Douglas said. “There is a middle ground because we don’t need the whole desert.”

The first phase of the DRECP covers 10 million acres of public land in Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties. The first phase identified 388,000 acres of development areas of high-quality renewable energy potential on federal land.

The DRECP is a multi-agency effort between the BLM, the Energy Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The plan specifies species, ecosystem and climate adaptation requirements for desert wildlife in the plan’s first phase. In total, the plan identifies 5.3 million acres of lands for conservation. The plan includes protections for recreation areas on public land.

The second phase involves the management of renewable energy within 12 million acres of private lands in the desert.

At the conference, Douglas said the focus of the second phase of the DRECP will be speeding the permitting of renewable energy projects on private land.

That effort, which is happening at the county level, is already underway, said Douglas.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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