What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy is generally defined as energy that comes from resources which are continually replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat.
California, with its abundant natural resources, has a long history of support for renewable energy. In 2009, 11.6 percent of all electricity came from renewable resources such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and small hydroelectric facilities. Large hydroelectric plants generated another 9.2 percent of electricity. In September 2015, the California Energy Commission estimated that 25 percent of electricity retail sales in 2014 were served by renewable energy generated from sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and small hydroelectric (“California Energy Commission – Tracking Progress”, September 3, 2015).
Why did the County start the SPARC process?
On April 12, 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring one-third of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy by December 31, 2020. On October 7, 2015, Governor Brown signed another climate change measure that will increase renewable energy generation, requiring California to generate 50% of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind by 2030 and make buildings more energy efficient.
In the context of rapidly emerging renewable technologies and changing community conditions, the County’s regulatory system needs to be substantially updated. Refining the County’s practices will help to encourage and attract locally appropriate renewable energy development while ensuring conservation priorities are addressed.
SPARC will prepare an all-new Renewable Energy and Conservation Element (Element) for the General Plan, with related updates to the County Development Code. It will enhance engineering standards and permitting procedures. In addition, it will establish leading-edge County policies, goals, and programs for renewable energy development and conservation.
What is the difference between SPARC Phase 1 and SPARC Phase 2?
SPARC Phase 1 and SPARC Phase 2 are phases of the singular goal of adopting a Renewable Energy and Conservation Element of the County General Plan. Funds for both Phases have been secured through grants by the California Energy Commission (CEC). SPARC Phase I culminated in a “Renewable Energy and Conservation Element Framework – Purpose Values Standards” that serves as a foundation on which the final Element will be based.
The study of existing conditions and drafting of policies in SPARC Phase 1 identified a need for quantitative analyses to identify the costs and benefits of various renewable energy scenarios. SPARC Phase 2, also known as the Renewable Energy Value-added Evaluation and Augmentation Leadership program, is designed to provide this cost-benefit data.
How will SPARC support San Bernardino County’s existing vision and regional goals?
SPARC’s foundation will be the Countywide Vision and its Regional Goals. The Regional Goals were adopted by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and the San Bernardino Associated Governments in 2012. The County has identified the adopted Regional Goals as a framework for the pending General Plan update, prioritizing transparency and predictability to equip appropriate business investment and development.
Will SPARC identify the areas and kinds of places appropriate for renewable energy?
Yes. A key purpose of SPARC is to identify land areas that are most appropriate for renewable energy development. This will make renewable energy siting clear and unambiguous—with no surprises. After careful analysis of environmental, economic, and community considerations, only certain areas will be designated as appropriate locations. For production of energy for on-site consumption, construction standards will address safety, engineering, and design priorities.
Who is involved in guiding SPARC activities?
As with SPARC Phase 1, County staff will continue during SPARC Phase 2 to work with community stakeholders, including the general public, businesses, and local special interest groups to review SPARC strategies and a regulatory system appropriate for San Bernardino County.
The public will continue to have opportunity to provide input on SPARC Phase 2 components through Community Outreach meetings and an internet Webinar in March 2016. Public input will also be solicited on the draft Element in conjunction with public hearings for the County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors during the adoption process. Key outside agency/stakeholder representatives will be interviewed for input via conference calls rather than in-person workshops. Input from stakeholders will be shared via postings on the County’s SPARC website.
Following the retention of consultants PMC and Aspen Environmental Group to assist with SPARC Phase 1, the County has contracted again with Aspen Environmental Group and their subconsultants for SPARC Phase 2. Residents, businesses, other government jurisdictions, and stakeholder groups are highly encouraged to participate in the planning process. A variety of participation methods will be made available.
How is the County paying for SPARC efforts to prepare the General Plan Renewable Energy Element?
The California Energy Commission (CEC) has awarded the County two Renewable Energy and Conservation Planning Grants to fund this work. The grants for both SPARC Phase 1 and Phase 2 cover all consultants and a majority of staff costs.
What are the next Steps for SPARC Phase 2?
The next step toward completion of the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element is to gain a greater understanding of the quantitative costs and benefits of renewable energy for the communities in which these facilities are located. A contract was approved by the County Board of Supervisors in October 2015 with Aspen Environmental Group to create a Renewable Energy Costs, Benefits and Cost Recovery Study.
Public Community Meetings and a Countywide Webinar to present the initial findings for the Renewable Energy Costs, Benefits and Cost Recovery Study will be held in March 2016. This Study and its supporting research on current technologies and value-added benefits will help to direct policy decisions for the Element. The draft Element will be available for public review and comment prior to and at public hearings for the County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors in the fall of 2016.
What is the difference between the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) and the San Bernardino County Partnership for Renewable Energy and Conservation (SPARC)?
The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is a requirement of California Executive Order S-14-08 and, as a planning document of the California Energy Commission, is a major component of California’s renewable energy planning efforts. The document will serve as a conservation plan and will not be used to approve renewable energy development projects. Rather, the DRECP will establish permit conditions and safeguards for several species in the plan area, which is focused on the Mojave and Colorado desert regions and lands of seven Counties. Local governments, such as the County of San Bernardino, will remain responsible for reviewing and issuing permits for renewable energy projects under their jurisdiction, pursuant to their independent authorities.
The San Bernardino County Partnership for Renewable Energy and Conservation (SPARC) is intended to improve the regulatory environment for reviewing and issuing permits for renewable energy projects. While DRECP will resolve many of our potential habitat conservation issues, SPARC will address impediments to renewable energy development, and land use compatibility within the County. The result of the SPARC planning process will be a Renewable Energy and Conservation Element and new regulatory framework for consideration of projects within the County’s jurisdiction. The County’s jurisdiction includes lands and projects in the unincorporated areas that are not under the jurisdiction of state or federal governments.
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