Department of the Interior
|Office of the Secretary
For Immediate Release:
July 11, 2006
Contact: Joan Moody
Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett Testifies on Department's Leadership in Renewable Energy Production
WASHINGTON – Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett testified today before the Senate Energy Committee that the Department of the Interior, which manages more than one-fifth of the nation’s land, has spurred rapid growth of renewable energy development on public lands while protecting the environment.
“By providing opportunities to develop renewable energy sources on public lands, the Department of the Interior is helping to enhance energy security by diversifying our nation’s energy portfolio,” Scarlett said.
Lands managed by the department’s Bureau of Land Management currently supply almost half of the nation’s geothermal generation and more than 5 percent of its installed wind capacity. In 2006 they will supply an estimated 60,000 tons of biomass, she noted. “Moreover, the department will continue to lead by example, utilizing renewable energy resources such as solar, geothermal, and wind power at existing and new DOI facilities,” according to the Deputy Secretary.
The BLM alone generates a total of 185 megawatt-hours of electricity from photovoltaic systems each year from more than 600 installations, Scarlett said. The National Park Service also is utilizing innovations in solar power at facilities throughout the National Park System. The Zion National Park Visitor Center, for example, uses 66 percent less energy than traditional energy systems and is virtually immune to the frequent power outages in the region.
The testimony also gave other examples of renewable energy use by BLM, NPS, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The potential for more renewable energy production on public lands is high, according to BLM and Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. A 2003 assessment indicated that 20 BLM planning units in seven western states have high potential for power production from three or more renewable energy sources.
The testimony noted that the growing cost of conventional energy resources encourages the development of renewable energy resources as part of an overall strategy to develop a diverse portfolio of domestic energy supplies for our future. “Public and private wind and other renewable energy generating sectors of our economy are the fastest growing energy sources in the United States,” Scarlett said.
The Energy Information Administration’s recently released 2006 Annual Energy Outlook estimates that the nation’s consumption of renewable fuels will grow approximately 60 percent from 6 quadrillion BTUs in 2004 to 9.6 quadrillion BTUs in 2025 as a result of advancements in renewable energy technologies, higher fossil fuel prices, state requirements to produce renewable energy and incentives provided by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The EIA estimates that in 2030 renewable energy will account for more than 10 percent of domestic energy production.
In response to increased demand for wind energy, the BLM and the FWS completed a programmatic wind energy environmental impact statement and a programmatic biological opinion in 2005 allowing 52 land-use plans in nine western states to be amended. Completion of this EIS and the biological opinion should provide the foundation for the authorization of more than 3,200 MW of wind energy in an environmentally responsible manner.
The MMS is developing a regulatory program to authorize offshore alternative energy proposals, such as wind, solar and ocean current technologies.
Over the past five years, the BLM has expedited the processing of pending geothermal lease applications on public lands. Since 2001, 199 leases have been issued, compared to 25 leases from 1996-2001.
The Energy Policy Act made comprehensive changes to the Geothermal Steam Act by requiring land nominated and made available for leasing to be leased on a competitive basis; restructuring royalties; and revising lease terms, conditions and rentals.
Alternative Sources of Fossil Energy
“Promising results have been shown in Alaska. With this new knowledge, the MMS, in cooperation with the USGS and leading academic researchers, is currently reassessing the extent of potential quantities of in-place gas hydrates on the Outer Continental Shelf, and MMS will be the first to assess the technically recoverable resource,” she said.