Environmental Policy News

BOEM and State of California Launch Offshore Renewable Energy Task Force

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the State of California held the inaugural meeting of the California Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force on 13 October 2016 in Sacramento, California, to begin planning for future renewable wind and wave energy development opportunities in federal offshore waters along the Golden State.

California is the 14th U.S. coastal state to form a renewable energy task force to provide critical information to the decision-making process, including how to resolve potential conflicts between development and environmental concerns and other uses. The California task force will facilitate coordination and communication between BOEM and state, local, and tribal governments and other federal agencies concerning potential renewable energy leasing for research activities and commercial development on federal submerged lands on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), offshore California. California Governor Jerry Brown requested formation of the task force in a May 12, 2016 letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

“Today’s inaugural meeting of the California Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force underscores the Obama Administration’s commitment to combating the effects of climate change and marks an important step in California’s role as a leader in renewable energy development,” said Janice Schneider, Interior Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. “California, with its track record of collaborative planning to bring online land-based renewable energy projects, now sets its eye to the sea to begin early planning on how Pacific offshore winds and waves may one day help the state meet its aggressive renewable energy goal.”

Today’s inaugural meeting established a common set of themes and objectives the task force will use to guide future collaboration and consultation among its members. Drawing on the collective expertise and experience of its member agencies and governments, and utilizing the best available science, the task force will seek to identify potential areas in federal waters offshore California that may be suitable for renewable energy research and/or commercial development.

“California looks forward to working with BOEM on the task force and engaging in further dialogue on the potential of offshore renewable energy and the planning, permitting, and coordination issues associated with this technology.” said California Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas. “California is currently implementing a comprehensive set of climate change policies, including 50% renewable energy target by 2030, and we are interested in learning about how offshore wind could play a role in helping achieve our climate and renewable energy goals.”

“Working closely with California’s coastal and ocean stakeholders will also allow BOEM and task force members to identify and address issues early in the planning process for future offshore renewable energy leasing and development,” said BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper. “As we move forward, it’s critical we actively engage these important stakeholders throughout the planning process.”

In April 2009, the Obama Administration announced the final framework for renewable energy development on the OCS. This framework establishes the process BOEM uses for granting leases, easements and rights-of-way for offshore renewable energy development activities, such as the siting and construction of facilities on the OCS. The framework also allows for BOEM to use task forces in carrying out its responsibilities for authorizing OCS renewable energy activities.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), areas off the west coast of the United States and Hawaii hold great renewable energy potential. This technical potential presents a compelling market opportunity that would assist states in meeting many of their ambitious and critically important renewable energy goals. In particular, NREL estimates areas off California have the technical potential to generate about 392 terawatt hours of electricity from offshore wind per year. This potential is about 1.5 times the total electricity consumption of the state, based on 2014 statistics.

To date, BOEM has awarded 11 commercial offshore wind leases, including nine through the competitive lease sale process (two offshore Maryland, two offshore Massachusetts, two offshore New Jersey, two in an area offshore Rhode Island-Massachusetts, and one offshore Virginia ). These lease sales have generated approximately $16 million in winning bids for more than a million acres in federal waters.

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