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By Nadin Abbott

October 25, 2014 (San Diego) Representatives of state and federal agencies held a public meeting in San Diego at the Hilton in Mission Valley to present the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) to citizens.

The plan, which covers 22 million acres of deserts in California, has the following stated goals according to the program:

  • Long-term adaptable plan including 20,000 megawatts of potential transmission power from deserts to urban areas in CA
  • Streamline the renewable project reviews and approvals, only within the DCREP region.
  • Conserve sensitive animal and plant species
  • Preserve other resources
  • Preserve Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land

The presentation was organized by the California Energy Commission and also included representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, which participated in the plan’s development.

A key question is how many transmission lines will ultimately be needed, which will depend on market conditions.  The plan shows a potential new high-voltage line parallel to Sunrise Powerlink, however this is a conceptual document, not a siting document, and it’s not yet determined whether the line would actually be built along this route.

Critics raised objections to a new line though East County during the public comment session. Bill Powers with the San Diego Energy Foundation hammered the panel on the need for distributive energy such as solar on rooftops in urban areas, which he said was mentioned only briefly in the document and that backers of the DRECP claim would not be sufficient to meet the needs of San Diego region, or for that matter California.

This plan has no renewable projects planned for the East County in any of the five planned alternatives, but does show energy projects planned in Imperial County, including wind, geothermal and Photovoltaic.  These could potentially hook up to San Diego via a new high voltage power line.

The representative of the American Wind Energy Association was also not happy with the plan, which would remove planning discretion at the local level. Ashley Richmond of the AWEA said that advocates are leaving California because of that.

The proposed plan document can be found here.

The factsheets (which are much shorter than the document) are here:

Moreover, here is a video produced explaining the plan.


There are critics to the plan. Locally the criticism came down to three factors:

First, there is no place in the plan for distributive energy such as rooftop solar in urban areas where the most power is used. It is mentioned in the plan, but dismissed as not able to provide sufficient power.  Critics disagree on this point and have contended that rooftop solar could meet our region’s needs.

Second: The plan, while full of good intentions, will not meet regulatory oversight and will be rejected like previous plans proposed that failed to meet California’s requirements under the Natural Community Conservation Planning (NCCP) since it does not adequately protect critical species, Jim Pugh told staff. 

Third: It will destroy the desert and increase risk of Valley fever due to the removal of the top soil.

Finally, Bill Smith, a resident of Imperial Valley and an agricultural worker,  came from Imperial County and pointed out that the plan will remove more agricultural land from production, increasing unemployment and taking good land from production.

The public has until January 9th, 2015 to make comments. Some  attendees asked for a 60-day extension due in part to the massive size of the document. Youu can file public comments by mail, fax, or email, and read instructions at:

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