Author: Tony Giunta, PG – Director of Project Development
I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard the words, “federal law requires” more than during a recent flight to New Hampshire. From the moment I purchased my ticket “on-line” to finally boarding the plane, I had to check, confirm, attest, swear and show identification to satisfy my full compliance with “federal regulations”. And if I had to do all of that simply to fly in an airplane, imagine the mind-boggling amount of government regulations one must satisfy when it comes to building and operating something as complicated as a renewable energy project!
If history is any indication of our future, renewable energy plants large enough to make a difference in addressing climate change will take 5 to 10 years to get through the mandatory regulatory red tape of our federal, state, and local bureaucracies. Assuming your project survives this scrutiny and timeline, you next still have to build the thing! That could take just as long as achieving your regulatory approvals.
The bottom line is that if you believe the scientists and their predictions on our limited window of opportunity to slow down climate change, then factoring in the time it takes to comply with regulations alone means we may have already missed the boat. Now it’s all about minimizing the devastating aftermath of our regulatory paralysis.
How bad will things get? Well, that depends on how quickly we remove barriers to achieving net zero carbon emissions. To do so, the federal government must pass legislation prohibiting frivolous lawsuits and minimizing bureaucratic red tape from hindering the construction of renewable energy projects.
For those who believe this is impossible, precedence shows federal laws can be passed that move us past regulatory paralysis and create a real path to progress. For example, telecommunication towers were as much despised and opposed as today’s wind turbines and solar fields. But the Federal Communications Commission recognized the strategic importance of this technology and unanimously adopted a “shot clock” order pre-empting all local zoning when it comes to locating and constructing cell towers. This bold, but necessary, move did and continues to enable developers to build-out this incredibly important infrastructure.
The window of opportunity to stop global warming is gone. The hard reality is that temperatures are going to continue to rise. The question now is: how fast and how high?
With a concerted effort by our lawmakers and regulators to remove impediments to renewable energy development, we may be able to minimize the most devastating effects of a rapidly warming planet. This effort must be focused on quickly passing federal renewable energy legislation like the FCC “shot clock” order. Might I even suggest the new legislation be issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and dubbed the “short fuse” order!