Obama administration has approved 14,000 MW of renewables on public lands

The Obama administration has approved more than 50 renewable energy projects on public lands that will be capable of generating 14,000 MW of electricity, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said during a March 17 address in Washington, D.C.

Jewell discussed Interior’s energy priorities for the next two years during a presentation at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

Wind and solar companies were “knocking on our door” to develop projects on public lands, but lacked a clear path forward, Jewell said. That changed when her Interior predecessor, Ken Salazar made such development a priority, Jewell said.

The speech did not dwell on sweeping new policy measures.

Jewell did say that Interior will release rules designed to reduce the amount of methane emitted during energy development. Interior also will seek to hasten blowout prevention technology and other measures to lessen the chances of another Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Interior will also work to modernize coal lease procedures to ensure that U.S. citizens are getting an adequate return on government-owned energy resources, she said.

Mostly, however, Jewell stressed the importance of climate change and the Interior Department’s role in supporting low-carbon generation.

Interior will seek to promote good government and define the “rules of the road” for energy development on America’s public lands, Jewell said.

“We have had a breakthrough year for the U.S. economy,” Jewell said.

“It’s no coincidence that our economic recovery has occurred during the biggest energy transformation of our lifetime,” Jewell said, adding that U.S. dependence on foreign oil is at its lowest point in 30 years. Gasoline is cheap and motorists are going further on a gallon of gas.

Likewise, renewable energy generation, like wind and solar, has mushroomed, the Interior official said.

There have been “tectonic shifts” in the energy landscape. “This is a speech about energy, but you can’t talk about energy without talking about climate change,” Jewell said.

The Interior chief said she was proud of the Obama administration’s “historic steps” to control greenhouse gas emissions.

The Department oversees the nation’s public lands, managing one-fifth of the landmass and 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf.

 Secretary Jewell was sworn in on April 12, 2013, as the 51st Secretary of the Interior. She is trained as a petroleum engineer with experience in the oil industry, finance sector, and most recently as CEO of the outdoor retailer REI. Jewell said many Interior rules concerning oil and gas development need to be updated because they were on the books long ago when she was in the petroleum industry.

 A “drill-everywhere plan” doesn’t work well if too many leases are challenged or overturned, Jewell said.

Jewell said the Interior Department has been mindful of potential environmental and external limitations when it started identifying potential areas for offshore wind power.

Capturing wind power along the Atlantic can be done without jeopardizing fishing, shipping and defense, Jewell said. Hundreds of thousands of acres are under lease. “I expect to see steel in the water within a couple of years.”

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.