Energy Facilities Siting / Licensing Process
The California Energy Commission has the statutory responsibility for licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts and larger and the plants related facilities such as transmission lines, fuel supply lines, water pipelines, etc. The Energy Commission's 12-month, one-stop permitting process is a certified regulatory program under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and includes many opportunities for public participation. The Energy Commission's license/certification subsumes all requirements of state, local, or regional agencies otherwise required before a new plant is constructed. More...
Historical and Statistical Info
Power Plant Licensing Cases
- Alphabetical List of All Projects Filed Since 1996
- Power Plant Siting Lessons Learned - Informational Proceeding
- Status of All Projects (HTML & Downloadable Excel File)
- Compliance Projects (Projects approved enter "compliance" phase.)
- FACT SHEET: Projects Since 1996 (PDF file)
- Approved Projects & On Line
- Approved Projects Under Construction
- Projects Under Review by the Commission
- Projects Announced
- Projects Withdrawn
- Map of Power Plant Licensing Cases in California
- Solar Energy Projects in California
Information For Developers
- Siting Division Information
- Power Project Developers' Guides
- Title 20 Calif. Code of Regulations including Energy Facilities Siting Regulations
- Energy Commission Facility Siting Fees Related to Generation Facilities
- Licensing Process
- Senate Bill 1776 Regulation Governing 6-Month Licensing Process (PDF file, 4 pages)
- Examples of Energy Facility Licensing Schedules for 12-Month AFC Process and Small Power Plant Exemption (SPPE) (PDF file, 4 pages, updated 6/11)
- Distributed Generation Info
- Energy Aware Planning Guide II: Energy Facilities (An in-depth report covering all facets of power plant siting and licensing)
Information For the Public
- Public Adviser (Assists public in siting cases)
- Public Participation in the Siting Process: Practice and Procedure Guide publication # CEC-700-2006-002, PDF file, 1.7 MB
- Energy Facilities Licensing Process A Overview to Public Participation
- Public Contacts for Approved Power Projects Under Construction
- Environmental Justice
- Docket Unit (Handles all documents relating to licensing cases)
- Acronyms (Terms used in power plant cases)
- Solar Energy Projects in California
Energy Commission Power Plant Licensing
The California Energy Commission has the statutory responsibility for licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts and larger and the plants related facilities such as transmission lines, fuel supply lines, water pipelines, etc. The Energy Commission's 12-month, one-stop permitting process is a certified regulatory program under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and includes many opportunities for public participation. The Energy Commission's license/certification subsumes all requirements of state, local, or regional agencies otherwise required before a new plant is constructed. The Energy Commission coordinates its review of the facility with the federal agencies that will be issuing permits to ensure that the Energy Commission certification incorporates conditions of certification that would be required by various federal agencies.
From 1978 to 1998 before California's electricity generation industry was restructured, the Energy Commission analyzed and approved 47 projects totaling 5,589 megawatts (MW). More recently, in the early 1990s the Energy Commission certified 14 power plants. Of the 14 plants, 10 were approved and eight were constructed totaling 995 MW. No power plant applications were filed with the Energy Commission between August 1994 and May 1997 because there was so much uncertainty during the pending restructuring of the electricity industry.
Electricity deregulation began on March 31, 1998. From 1998 through February 2011, 90 electric generation projects, totaling 34,892.5 MW, have been reviewed and licensed by the Energy Commission. 48 of these licensed facilities have been built and are on-line producing 16,635 MW. Workload has been at historic levels these past several years with the peak number of applications for new projects twice that of the peak in the 1980s. Over the past several years, the Commission tracked upwards of 150 potential projects 50 MW and larger; however, most of these projects were not filed with the Energy Commission because of unfavorable market conditions.
The following table shows that the Commission has processed more proposed projects in the past six years (93 projects) as were reviewed over the previous 20 years (47 projects). One can also see that, on average, the size of the more recent projects are about three times larger than the projects prior to restructuring.
Project Summary - Post-Restructuring
(PDF file, 2 pages
Also note that as of 2004, a total of more than 1,200 megawatts of power
were approved and permitted at the local level by cities, counties, etc.
During the energy crisis (2000-2002), the Energy Commission utilized several processes and timelines. On the Emergency Orders of the Governor, a 21-day review was implemented for peaker projects (projects that would normally operate less than 2,500 hours per year). Additionally, 4-month and 6-month processes were authorized by the legislature on a short-term basis. The legislation establishing these licensing processes contained sunset clauses and the processes have expired.
The two processes that are currently available are the 12-month review (Application for Certification - AFC) and the Small Power Plant Exemption (SPPE). The SPPE is available for projects between 50 MW and 100 MW, provided the proposed project does not create an unmitigated significant impact on environmental resources. The Energy Commission completes an Initial Study (mitigated negative declaration) and, if approved by the Commission, the project developer would be responsible for securing local, state, and federal permits to construct and operate the facility. The Energy Commission strives to complete the SPPE review in 135 days.
The fees for filing an AFC are $255,075 plus $510 per MW payable at the time of filing. There is also an annual compliance fee of $25,508 for all projects granted a license. Projects that would use a renewable resource as its primary fuel source are not exempt from the filing and compliance fees. The fee for filing a SPPE equals the actual cost of the Energy Commission's review. We request a deposit of $200,000 at the time of the filing. The account will be settled after the final decision is made by the Energy Commission based on the actual costs either by billing the project developer for the costs that exceed the deposit or providing a refund if the costs are less than the deposit. There is no annual compliance fee for a SPPE because the Energy Commission is not licensing the project but only completing the appropriate environmental documentation.
The Energy Commission's licensing process is recognized as an effective method for the timely permitting of major energy facilities in California. In a February 2002 study by the Hewlett Foundation, Susan Tierney of Lexecon, the principal author of the report states, "California's traditional plant siting laws strike a balance between public involvement and timely project review that is predictable, transparent and effective."
The report concludes, "The traditional 12-month siting process of the CEC (California Energy Commission) is in design and practice an effective mechanism for the timely siting of major energy facilities in the State of California. The standard CEC siting process not only is relatively fair and efficient, but is also very effective at encouraging and responding to meaningful public input, and contains a comprehensive review of potential environmental impacts."
For more information about the Commission's Energy Facility Licensing process, please contact the Commission's Energy Facilities Siting Division at the address or phone number below. The Commission's Energy Facility Siting and Environmental Committee has policy oversight responsibility for the Commission's power plant siting program. The policy committee members are: Presiding Member - Commissioner Karen Douglas, Associate Member - Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller.
Energy Commission Contacts
Power Plant Licensing
Energy Facility Licensing Office Manager
1516 Ninth Street, MS-15
Sacramento, CA 95814
(Compliance with conditions of certification and power plants that have been previous approved by the Commission)
Energy Facility Compliance Office Manager
1516 Ninth Street, MS-2000
Sacramento, CA 95814
Contacts for News Media Only
Media & Communications Office
If you are member of the public and need help with siting cases
1516 Ninth Street, MS-12
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 1-800-822-6228 (Calif. only)
Letter from former Resources Agency Secretary Mary Nichols on
Certification of Energy Commission's Siting Process as EIR-Equivalent
(Adobe Acrobat PDF file, 2 pages, 17 kilobytes)
Power Plant Siting
- Public Adviser's Office
- Power Plant Siting Proceedings FAQs
- Power Plant Siting or Licensing Process
- Six Phases of the Power Plant Siting Process
- Public Participation in the Siting Process: Practice and Procedure Guide (PDF File, 3.3 mb)
- Summary of Typical Public Involvement Opportunities in Energy Commission Siting Cases
- Public Adviser's Presentations and Printed Materials
- Commission Siting Division
- Acronyms and Definitions Used in Siting Cases
- Energy Commission News Releases