Governor Announces Actions to Help Preserve State Lands and Habitats, Build Renewable Energy Projects


SECRETARY SNOW:
 
Good afternoon. I want to thank all of you for being here today on a rare windy day in the desert. Those of you who didn't laugh have never been in the desert. (Laughter) Really happy that all of you could join us here today; it's a very important issue that we're dealing with.

I want to thank Mitch Davidson, president and CEO of NextEra Energy Resources for having us here and giving us a tour of this facility, which is to some extent like touring a space age facility but we recognize it's been here for 20 years. One of the significance of recognizing that's it's been here for 20 years is we're not talking about doing something new; we're talking about doing something important over and over again here in California.

Let me also introduce here today Secretary Ken Salazar, who has joined us from Washington on this important energy issue. (Applause) TJ Tuscai, senior vice president and chief operating officer of NextEra Energy Resources. (Applause) Cindy Tindell, vice president, NextEra Energy Resources. (Applause) Scott Frier, chief operating officer, Abengoa Solar. (Applause) And Tandy McMannes, vice president of business development, Abengoa Solar. (Applause) Those of you not familiar with Abengoa Solar, the facility that will be up the road here is being developed by Abengoa Solar on the abandoned farmland, will be a facility very similar to this.

I do want to indicate the significance of this facility here. We've just toured the Harper Lake facility and this facility, combined with the other ones owned by NextEra, is collectively the world's largest solar facility, not just in California and the United States but the world's largest solar facility.

The facility has been in operation for over 20 years and that demonstrates the reality of renewable energy and provides us with the assurance that we can achieve the state's renewable goals while protecting the environment and providing local jobs. The technology is here. But there's much to be done in terms of siting new facilities and we must site facilities while protecting our unique and fragile desert environment while, in building those facilities, we are improving air quality, reducing greenhouse gases and reducing dependence on foreign energy.

I have had the privilege of working for Governor Schwarzenegger for six years now. He probably thinks it's been more like 15 but nonetheless, the last six years I've been with him as he's worked on a variety of natural resource issues, trying to find that balance between managing our natural resources and sustaining strategic growth and infrastructure investment. Whether it's been water policy, ocean policy, transportation policy or, here today, renewable energy policy, the Governor has made it his landmark issue, to make sure we can invest in California's future and invest in a clean future for California. For over two years the Governor has pushed hard on streamlining, expediting permitting to make facilities like this more possible in California.

So please join me in welcoming Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Applause)

GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER:

Thank you very much, Secretary Snow, or Lester, as I always refer to you.

I want to thank also some other people that are here today. I want to thank Secretary Salazar for coming out here and spending time with us and really seeing this as a very important partnership. So let's give him a big hand again for his great generosity and great help. (Applause)

And then Mitch Davidson of NextEra Energy, I want to thank him also and Scott Frier of Abengoa Solar. And then Michael Picker, who is sitting right over here to my left, who is really the one that is working for my administration and has been doing an extraordinary job in trying to pull all of the different stakeholders and entities together. A very, very challenging job but he's up to par with the whole thing, with the challenges and has done an extraordinary job. Let's give him also a big hand. (Applause)

Now, as Lester Snow was just saying, that we just toured the largest solar site in the world and it's really quite an experience to see that. In this plant it's amazing, because it's 160 megawatts of solar, which is like taking more than 26,000 cars off the road, that's the kind of reduction in greenhouse gases and it's also powering more than 130,000 homes.

Now, I know that NextEra, the company that operates this facility, is also planning to make this kind of a puny operation, because they want to build 250 megawatts of solar plants, two of them -- two of them, that's 500 megawatts all together. So this will be again the biggest in the world. So this means $2 billion of investment right here in California and nearly 2,000 construction jobs. And let me tell you, this area has been hit very hard in this economic crisis, so they need the jobs right here.

We also, across the street, toured the Abengoa project, which was also very, very impressive, the plans that they have. They want to build 250 megawatts of solar and create 1,200 jobs. Extremely impressive. I love this kind of action here.

And this is just the beginning. We have 240 companies like that that are interested in building here in California -- 240 companies. I mean, think about this. Together their capacity will exceed California's entire grid, we're talking about 64,000 megawatts. So there are 20 companies right now, large projects that are potentially breaking ground this year.

And this is why we're all working together frantically to help them with the permitting and to bring all this together. If they break ground this year and if they spend 5 percent of their spending, of what the costs are and if they can complete it -- wind by 2012 and solar by 2016 -- that means that they could then be actually qualifying for federal stimulus funds. Now, let me tell you, this is $5 to $10 billion of ARRA funding that is available if they start the project this year and break ground this year. And that's again why we are here today, to try to pull our forces together to make sure they can break ground this year.

They will create more than 12,000 jobs and $30 billion of investment here in California and now, in this economic downtime, this is a very important investment. And this is why I say that when we talk about renewable energy and about green technology and about protecting our environment, it's also good for the economy when you see $30 billion being invested in California.

We are seeing here a great energy revolution and it's all because we have had a bold and innovative vision for California and for its future. Today we are honoring a commitment to that future.

Now, when I ran for governor I made it very clear that we have to go and protect the environment and protect the economy at the same time. I promised to get off dirty coal and the power plants that pollute our air and sicken our children. I said that I wanted to fly across the state, look down from the helicopter and see just solar panels everywhere, on the rooftops of homes, on the top of hospitals, prisons, universities, government buildings, warehouses and also in the desert.

And now here we are. Look at this. Every day we're getting closer and closer to this goal, to go and make this goal a reality. We created long-term energy policies here in California that created this driving market for clean technology. I mean, AB 32, to make a commitment to lower our greenhouse gases by 25 percent by the year 2020 and then the Million Solar Roof project and on top of that, the 33-percent Renewable Energy Standard. So all of this, in order to reach those goals, we have to go and build these kind of solar plants and this is what is so fantastic about it.

So we've all been working very hard, all of us here, all the stakeholders. As a matter of fact, Secretary Salazar has been an absolute jewel, a great partner and we want to thank him and we want to thank the Obama Administration for the great job they are doing in helping us. We signed an MOU just a few months ago. We began slicing through the red tape to streamline habitat conservation and the permitting process and we even created the Renewable Energy Policy Group, which of course is everyone involved, from the locals to state and the federal government officials. We also want to bring in the environmentalists and also the builders. Everyone has to work together on this and leapfrog development out here and make sure that our fragile species keep their home. It's about clean power, clean energy, about clean technology. It's about solar, wind, geothermal and it's about jobs, jobs, jobs.

This is a win/win situation for everybody here in California and also in the United States. Just take a look around here. Isn't that one of the most beautiful spots in the world? I just love it here. We want to protect it and keep it that way. California needs 15,000 to 20,000 megawatts of additional energy to hit our renewable energy goal of 33 percent. But we have nearly 68,000, like I said earlier, 68,000 megawatts of clean energy in our pipeline, 240 projects are waiting just to get the permits.

This means that we can actually help other states, not just ourselves and that's again one of the visions that President Obama had, where we build a grid from one state to the other and states help each other. And California could actually export clean energy across the nation, reduce greenhouse gases and create jobs. So we are very happy about that and again, I want to thank Secretary Salazar and the Obama Administration for being such great partners and helping us make this happen, to make this a reality.

And of course after everyone is through with the speaking, I'm going to go and create some more action. We're going to sign this bill right over there. This is the Padilla bill, which is Senate Bill X 834. That bill is very important in this whole process here, because what it will do is -- and Senator Padilla wanted to be here himself, you can image, since it's his bill but they are caucusing right now up there in Sacramento and doing very important work. And so I just talked to them on the phone but he just wanted to let me know how happy he was to create this bill and author this bill.

But basically what it will do is land developers are allowed to just write a check to replace the land where endangered species live in lieu of buying or finding replacement land themselves. So it really makes it much easier, instead of having to go out and find this replacement land. And also this Senate bill makes available $10 million developing loan-fund, which is very important, because that is the money that then the people can have to write those checks. And also, what it also does is it bundles together all the land acquisitions, instead of treating each and every one of those projects separately. So this is a great bill. I'm looking forward to signing it.

And now I would like to bring out our great partner Secretary Salazar to say a few words about all of this. Please welcome Secretary Salazar. (Applause)

SECRETARY SALAZAR:

Let me first thank Governor Schwarzenegger, because I think this is about the 10th time in 14 months I've been here in California working on capturing the sun and the wind and the geothermal and working on water issues and so many other things. And he's a great partner, a great leader and a great governor for the state of California.

I also want to thank Abengoa and NextEra, Mitch Davidson and others who have been involved with us here today. And on behalf of the President and the Department of Interior I want to thank all of our BLM employees and our Fish and Wildlife Service employees who also are part of making renewable energy a reality. Today with me is Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes, to my left. Give him a round of applause. He works very hard on these issues. (Applause) And three people who always are telling me that California is at the point of the spear in the renewable energy revolution; my counselor on energy Steve Black, David Nawi, who works on water and Tanaya Scott (Phonetic), who is in charge of all these renewable energy projects, so thank you. (Applause) And Kendra Barkoff, a resident of California who is my communications person who is here, so let me just say thank you to her as well.

I cannot think of a more appropriate place to underscore that renewable energy is not a pie-in-the-sky kind of idea but it's here and it's real and it's right here at this particular place. Sometimes you have to see things to make believers out of the cynics, out of those who say that it cannot be done and that's what NextEra has been doing here, that's what NextEra is doing in its future, that's what Abengoa and so many others who are working on developing the renewable energy future have been doing.

This is a future that we are working to achieve. It is a visionary investment in cutting-edge technology, in good, solid jobs, jobs, jobs, as Governor Schwarzenegger would say, we are working to achieve. It is a visionary investment in cutting-edge technology, in good solid jobs, jobs, jobs, as Governor Schwarzenegger would say and President Obama would say, for the American worker. And it's renewable resources that can be used efficiently and effectively for the betterment of California and the communities and the nation.

President Obama has set a very high priority on diversifying the nation's energy portfolio to include renewable energy. At the Department of Interior he has directed me to spur solar, wind and geothermal energy development on federal lands in California and around the West and in the Outer Continental Shelf. We are cutting bureaucratic red tape, creating strategies to expedite development, prioritizing public land best suited for renewable energy and spurring investment and stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Our collaboration with California reflects the best of these efforts in renewable energy development and permitting.

Our agencies, the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 250-plus million acres around the United States of America, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the California state agencies, have been working cooperatively to review renewable energy applications. And when those renewable energy applications are approved, as we expect they will be, we will meet the deadlines for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants.

For example, the Abengoa Mojave Solar project we visited this morning highlights a federal-state partnership to more efficiently and effectively site and permit renewable energy resources. That particular project is expected to be in operation in a few years, providing 1,200 construction jobs in the short term and 250 megawatts of power.

I appreciate the work the California agencies are doing to prioritize the environmental reviews and processing of projects that could be permitted in time for us to move forward. We have nine solar projects -- that's nine solar projects and three wind projects on the fast track list for the Department of Interior. Those are the projects that we are undertaking a rigorous review with the intent of having them permitted by December 1 of this year.

And as the Governor often reminds me, Governor Schwarzenegger says, "Sometimes government doesn't work at its best because they do little things and take baby steps." What we're doing here is we're taking the moon shot on renewable energy by moving these particular applications forward but also have a number of others in the pipeline that I will talk about in just a minute.

Just these nine solar energy projects here in California and one additional facility that we're working on with NextEra, they would be able to produce 4,500 megawatts of power. That's enough power for more than a million homes and it will provide 10s of millions of jobs.

This fast-track process is about focusing our staff and resources. It's not about cutting corners, because we know we need to protect the environment as well and we are doing so. All the renewable energy projects that have proposed for BLM-managed lands will receive the full environmental review required by the National Environmental Protection Act and will include the same opportunities for public involvement that other decisions made by the BLM on land use require.

But working together we can achieve the vision and the direction that President Obama has given to me and to this nation and that is that we can increase our renewable energy generation and thereby reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We can build a clean energy economy and we can create an economy that's powered by American resources and American ingenuity.

So those are our fast-track projects. But we've also, to make all this happen -- because it just doesn't happen because you say it's going to happen -- and as we have seen here, this is not pie-in-the-sky stuff. We can make it happen. We have established in the Department of Interior two Renewable Energy Coordination Offices here in California alone and many of them, other offices in other states across the West. Now, the efforts of these coordination and permitting offices is to swiftly complete the reviews of the most ready-to-go solar, wind and geothermal projects on U.S. public lands. These offices will work closely together to make sure that we fast track these applications to the permit completion.

Including the nine fast-track solar projects and the three fast-track wind projects -- and we can see why the wind sometimes is a very important renewable energy as well -- these offices here, just in California alone -- check this out -- they are, Governor, processing 53 -- 53 solar applications covering over 445,000 acres and 90 wind applications covering 876,000 acres on public lands. That should tell the people of this country how serious we are in terms of standing up renewable energy.

We have set aside 1,000 square miles, which I set aside with authority that I have as Secretary of Interior, for 24 solar energy study areas around the West. This includes four areas in California that cover 530 square miles. I was speaking to Mitch Davidson early on he was telling me that if we could only capture the sun that falls on 800 square miles of America, we could basically power the entire American electrical needs for this economy. And we have set aside 1,000 square miles for this intensive study.

We have invested $41 million through the President's Economic Recovery Plan to stand up this renewable energy world and we also are working on transmission, because what we have to do is to make sure that as we create these productions facilities that generate electricity, we need to get the electricity from the place where it is produced to the place where it is going to be consumed. And in that regard we are fast tracking 1,000 miles of transmission lines across the western United States. I believe that we are on the verge of a new energy frontier and I believe that we and the state of the California have developed the model for how we will work together.

Let me just conclude by saying this. When we look at the signature issues of our time there are many which are on the President's agenda. I have been working with him extensively over the last couple of weeks on one of those signature issues. But one of those signature issues that will drive America and the 21st century will be how we address the reality of energy and climate change. With Governor Schwarzenegger's leadership here in California we are seeing the way forward. There is no doubt in my mind that California is at the point of the spear in making a reality out of the challenges that we're facing on energy and climate change. So it's been a pleasure working with the governor and working with Lester Snow and all the rest of the people from the state of California who have been involved.

Now it's my pleasure to introduce the president and CEO of NextEra Energy Resources, Mitch Davidson. (Applause)

MR. DAVIDSON:

Thank you, Secretary Salazar. Good afternoon, everyone. It's an honor for me, for everyone at this facility, for our company and our partners, to host you here today at the world's largest solar generation energy facility. NextEra Energy would also like to extend a heartfelt thank you for all of you and particularly to you, Governor Schwarzenegger and Secretary Salazar, for everything that you're doing to promote the investment in renewable energy, not only here in California but across the world and across the country.

I had an opportunity earlier today to showcase this facility and talk about some of the improvements that we've made to the Secretary and to the Governor and to share with them that we're not waiting just to build new facilities, we're also improving the efficiencies of our existing facilities. We've spent over $100 million just in the last four years at both this facility and the Kramer Junction facility, to increase the facilities' efficiency. And that investment has increased our efficiency by over 20 percent. Now, when you think about that, what that really means is we're actually producing more energy out of these facilities today that when they first came on line 20 years ago. And that's correct. NextEra Energy has actually been producing renewable energy in the state of California for over 20 years.

But we're not done. As the Governor mentioned, we have two projects in the permitting cycle today. Those projects are both the Beacon and the Genesis project. They're located in Kern and Riverside Counties. These projects represent over $2 billion of capital investment. That's an investment that NextEra Energy Resources is prepared to make today. And as the Governor said, it's also an investment that will create over 2,000 jobs here in California and it means over $300 million in payroll.

Together, these two facilities, the 500-megawatts of renewable capacity, could help California in its efforts to supply 33 percent of its state energy needs from renewable resources by 2030, or by 2020, excuse me.

And while the Genesis Project and the Beacon Project are probably the ones that are most well known among most of you here, we're also working on several other photovoltaic projects and wind projects to go with our existing 15 facilities that we have in the state of California.

We're certainly proud of all of our projects. However, working with all of you and the continued support on both the state and the federal level around policy is what we need. And believe me, when we get that and we get this kind of support, NextEra Energy and those that compete with us to build in this state and around the country, we can do much, much more. So thank you gentlemen, very much, for your support.

I believe we have a bill to sign now. All right.

(Bill signed, applause)

QUESTION/ANSWER:
 
GOVERNOR: I know you heard a lot about this subject. But just in case we missed something, if you have any questions, we have all the experts here. Anyone?

QUESTION: Thank you. OK, are all the ongoing sites on -- as you saw, disturbed land and the environmentalists like it because it does not involve developing habitat for endangered species such as the desert tortoise. And I was wondering what the state was doing to prioritize or fast-track projects that focus more on disturbed lands as opposed to pristine lands?

GOVERNOR: Well, first, the state, as you know, we have been very, very sensitive to make sure that we bring the environmentalists and also the project builders, the developers, together and also to bring the state, local officials and also the federal officials together. So this is all a collaboration of everyone. It's like the Tejon Ranch when, you know, for years and years and years they tried to develop there but then when we brought everyone together. This administration has been very good in bringing all the stakeholders together and trying to find a solution and this is exactly what we will find here too.

And this is why, again, you see Secretary Salazar here, Secretary Lester Snow, everyone is here today. And the next two days will be very important, because that's when they all listen to all these various different project developers and try to get the permits. That's the most important thing -- but to do it in a more sensitive way. And like I said, to make sure that we also take care of those species that are very important to all of us.

You're welcome. Any other question? Well, thank you very much. You all have a good day. Thank you. (Applause)