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Green light for renewable energy development on the US Outer Continental shelf

US President Barack Obama has announced that the Department of the Interior has finalised a long-awaited framework for renewable energy production on the US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

The framework establishes a program to grant leases, easements, and rights-of-way for orderly, safe, and environmentally responsible renewable energy development activities, such as the siting and construction of off-shore wind farms, on the OCS.

In addition to establishing a process for granting leases, easements, and rights-of-way for offshore renewable energy development, the new program also establishes methods for sharing revenues generated from OCS renewable energy projects with adjacent coastal States. Additionally the framework will enhance partnerships with Federal, state, and local agencies and tribal governments to assist in maximizing the economic and ecological benefits of OCS renewable energy development. The Final Framework has been submitted to the Federal Register.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 granted the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) the authority to regulate renewable energy development on the OCS, but no action had been taken under that authority until now. Since taking office, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has made it a priority to finalise the rules that will govern offshore renewable energy development, given the enormity of this clean, renewable energy source in the USA and its proximity to major population centers. A number of other countries, especially in Europe, are tapping significant energy from offshore winds.

The Interior Department and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) cleared the way for the publication of these final rules by signing an agreement on April 9, 2009 that clarifies their agencies’ jurisdictional responsibilities for leasing and licensing renewable energy projects on the OCS.

Under the agreement, the MMS has exclusive jurisdiction with regard to the production, transportation, or transmission of energy from non-hydrokinetic renewable energy projects, including wind and solar. FERC will have exclusive jurisdiction to issue licenses for the construction and operation of hydrokinetic projects, including wave and current, but companies will be required to first obtain a lease through MMS.

The proposed wind farm off Nantucket Sound, known as Cape Wind, has been undergoing review independently of the rule making process, and no decision is being made on the project at this time. If approved, it will be subject to the terms of the final framework announced today.

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Energy infrastructure  •  Other marine energy and hydropower  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Wave and tidal energy  •  Wind power