WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said on Wednesday it would cut in half the amount it charges companies to build wind and solar projects on federal lands, a move designed to encourage development of renewable energy.
“Clean energy projects on public lands have an important role to play in reducing our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and lowering costs for families,” Deb Haaland, the interior secretary, said in a statement.
Wind and solar developers have long said that lease rates and fees for projects on federal lands were too high to attract investors. The new policy would cut those costs by about 50 percent, administration officials said.
Representative Mike Levin, Democrat of California, who has sponsored legislation to expedite renewable energy development, applauded the move. “As Americans continue to face worsening effects of the climate crisis and rising energy bills, it’s paramount that we strengthen our clean energy independence to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy costs,” he said in a statement.
Ms. Haaland made the announcement during a trip to Las Vegas, where she hosted a renewable energy round-table with business groups. The federal Bureau of Land Management also announced that it would strengthen up its ability to handle a growing number of applications by wind, solar and geothermal developers by creating five new offices across the West to review proposed projects.
The decision comes as the Biden administration also seeks to raise the royalty fees it charges oil and gas companies to drill on federal land and in federal waters. Last month, the administration canceled three oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska, prompting Republican lawmakers to criticize the new renewable energy policies as harmful to energy producing states.
“Here is Biden‘s energy policy: wind, solar and wishful thinking,” Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, said on Wednesday on the Senate floor. “It’s just not realistic and, among other things, it is hurting our country. It is hurting my people in Louisiana desperately.”
President Biden has pledged to cut greenhouse gases generated by the United States roughly in half by 2030. Legislation to accomplish that is frozen on Capitol Hill.
As a result, the administration is focused on more limited executive actions that could spur clean energy and reduce the use of oil, gas and coal — the burning of which produces the carbon dioxide and other gases that are dangerously heating the planet.
Last year, for example, the administration gave a green light to two major solar projects on federal lands in California that it said would generate about 1,000 megawatts, enough electricity to power about 132,000 homes.
In a report to Congress in April, the Interior Department said it was on track to approve 48 wind, solar and geothermal energy projects with the capacity to produce an estimated 31,827 megawatts of electricity, enough to power roughly 9.5 million homes, by the end of the fiscal 2025 budget cycle.
The reduction in fees and rental rates comes at a challenging time for the solar industry. A Commerce Department investigation into whether Chinese companies are circumventing U.S. tariffs by moving components for solar panels through four Southeast Asian countries has held up hundreds of new solar projects across the country.