Saturday, November 28, 2009

When red tape meets renewable power - the winner in a knockout

If there were a Battle of the Titans between the forces of bureaucracy and redtape taking on the environmentalists who are all gung ho for building renewable power plants, who would win? Apparently, the forces of the bureaucracy would win in a rout. The San Francisco Chronicle has a story about the giant snag that all sorts of efforts at building renewable energy power providers have run into as they try to get approval for building the new plants that are required in response to Governor Schwarzenegger's requirement that 20% of California's energy comes from renewable sources by the end of 2010.
California's renewable power boom is off to a slower start than planned.

Delays have hit more than half of the big solar, wind and geothermal energy projects under development throughout the state, according to a recent government report. They're still moving forward, but not at the pace their developers expected.

As a result, California probably won't meet its goal of getting 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2010 - a key element of the state's fight against global warming.
Part of the problem they're facing is simply lining up the financing to build their projects in the face of the economic downturn. But there is hope from Obama's stimulus plan that was supposed to fund a green job revolution.

The delicious irony is that many of the road bumps were built by environmentalists who have inserted so many regulations into approving any new venture to provide energy that the whole process has slowed to a crawl.
The permit application process can be a labyrinth.

In California, the process varies depending on the location and the type of technology involved. County governments grant permits for wind farms and solar power plants that use photovoltaic cells. Solar thermal plants - which use mirrors to generate steam - get their permits from the California Energy Commission, although other state agencies will review each project and add their comments.

For projects that lie on federal land, developers also need approval from the Bureau of Land Management, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

"We have such a balkanization of the whole process, between federal and state requirements and all the places you have to go," said Robert Nelson, a partner in the renewable energy group of the Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld law firm.
It would be a pretty safe bet that, if we were to trace back the history of most of these regulations we would find some environmentalist group lobbying for each one. All for the very best of motives, at least in their own minds. Every level of bureaucracy wants to assert their control and so they all write up their own regulations and don't care how they're overlapping with other bureaucratic offices. For decades such regulations have slowed down all sorts of economic growth. It's a delicious irony to see it now slowing up the very sort of green entrepreneurship that environmentalists claim to be so in favor of. Their use of the bureaucracy to impose their agenda is now coming back to bite. Perhaps they'll be able to insert new provisions to fast-track the approval process, but I would never underestimate the power of red tape to take on all comers.

(Link via Don Surber)