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Senior Obama administration officials have announced a number of steps that will help the West tap its clean energy potential and create green jobs. The efforts were announced during the annual meeting of the Western Governors' Association (WGA) in Park City, Utah.

The announcements include initiatives to advance the development of a smarter electric grid and more reliable transmission system, protect critical wildlife corridors and habitats, promote the development of renewable energy sources and lay the groundwork to integrate these energy sources onto the national electricity grid.

"These steps send an unmistakable message: The Obama administration will be a strong partner with the West on clean energy," says Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "We will create jobs, promote our energy independence and cut our carbon emissions by unlocking the enormous potential for renewable energy in the western United States."

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced $80 million in new funding under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) to support long-term, coordinated interconnection transmission planning across the country.

In addition, $50 million in ARRA funding will support state public utility commissions in regulating and overseeing new electricity projects, which can include smart-grid developments, renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, carbon capture and storage projects.

Administration officials also agreed to partner with the WGA to enhance state wildlife data systems that will help minimize the impact to wildlife corridors and key habitats when developing renewable energy projects.

The DOE and the WGA released a joint report by the Western Renewable Energy Zones initiative that takes first steps toward identifying areas in the Western transmission network that have the potential for large-scale development of renewable resources with low environmental impacts.

Participants in the project included renewable energy developers, tribal interests, utility planners, environmental groups and government policy-makers. Together, they developed new modeling tools and data to facilitate interstate collaboration in permitting new multi-state transmission lines.

For more information, visit westgov.org.

SOURCE: Department of Energy

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