Building capacity – capacity in terms of human resources, particularly – is key to driving the transition to a clean green energy system and society forward. Under the Obama Administration, federal government agencies – the EPA, Departments of Energy, Interior, Defense, and others – have been playing a leading role in blazing the trail toward a clean-energy, low-carbon society.
Aiming to keep US clean energy development and growth going strong, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) on March 11 published a guidebook that “provides best practices and other helpful guidance for federal agencies developing large-scale renewable energy projects.”
As extensive as the federal government apparatus is, “federal facilities represent a large clean energy resource for the United States. Federal energy policies, requirements, and goals require the development of nearly three gigawatts (GW) of renewable power projects over the next decade,” FEMP notes in its press release.
A Doubling of Renewable Power Generation
Renewable energy generation capacity on federal lands has more than doubled during President Obama’s time in office, with the Interior Department having authorized 33 renewable energy projects on public lands since 2009.
These include 18 utility-scale solar power facilities, seven wind power farms, and eight geothermal power plants, along with associated transmission corridors and infrastructure, the Department noted.
Taken together, these projects will produce enough clean electricity to power more than 3.5 million US homes, support some 13,000 construction and operations jobs, and potentially avoid a massive amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions over their useful lives.
“We have made impressive gains, approving dozens of utility-scale solar, wind and geothermal projects in the West and transitioning from planning to commercial leasing for offshore wind,” outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told some 300 industry leaders in a keynote address at the Offshore Wind Power USA Conference in Boston February 26.
Salazar last October announced a refined federal blueprint for large-scale solar power project developments spanning six Western states. In January, Salazar and Interior followed that up by designating 192,100 acres of public land in Arizona “as potentially suitable for utility-scale solar and wind energy development.”
Ongoing Threats To Clean Energy Gains And Benefits
The multiple, cross-cutting returns and benefits of federal government investment and support for clean energy and energy efficiency have been attested to in several major studies. In fact, the DOE under outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s leadership has proven a better venture capitalist than the private sector. That’s not to mention the basic R&D the federal government funds, investments that have led to breakthroughs and have been picked up and commercialized and capitalized upon by American businesses.
Despite the social and environmental benefits and economic returns public and private sector renewable energy and energy efficiency investments afford the nation, the impetus provided by federal government clean energy policies and programs is under constant threat from vested fossil fuel industry interests and the “conservative” media. The latest salvo is subsumed within the automatic budget cuts now under way as part of the federal budget sequestration process, as well as vigorous efforts to publicly and privately promote and expand shale oil and gas production.
Extraordinarily destructive, fostering growing exploration and production of shale oil and gas would virtually assure ongoing increases in US carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, along with accompanying threats to water supplies, soil, and land. It could also drive US oil prices substantially lower, a development that poses perhaps the biggest threat to the clean energy revolution.
Guidance For Developing Large-Scale Renewable Energy Projects At Federal Facilities
Affording federal agency staff expert information and guidance, FEMP’s new renewable energy project development guidebook can keep US clean energy development and growth going strong. Large-Scale Renewable Energy Guide: Developing Renewable Energy Projects Larger than 10 MWs at Federal Facilities “provides a comprehensive framework including active project management strategies, common terms, and principles that reduce project uncertainties and promote partnerships between the federal government, private developers, and financiers,” FEMP explains in its press release.
Produced by FEMP and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), “federal project managers who use the guide to design and develop their projects learn best practices for private-sector financing across a variety of funding options and competitive acquisition processes,” FEMP explains.
“The guide will also help commercial developers better understand federal energy planning and acquisition processes. Built on lessons learned from both the private sector and federal agencies, the guide shows how federal agencies can help attract project developers and private capital investment, while ensuring federal energy goals and requirements are met.”