Federal land management agencies have taken several steps to foster renewable energy development on Federal lands since EPAct 2005. Specifically, these agencies have developed or revised policies aimed at, among other things, improving the renewable energy permitting process, formalized coordination within and across agencies and with state and local governments, and devoted increased resources to processing applications for renewable energy permits. One of BLM's most comprehensive actions was the completion of programmatic environmental impact statements for renewable energy development, intended to streamline the permitting process. The agencies also took steps to improve coordination through regularly established meetings and development of memorandums of understanding between federal and state agencies. They also added staff and increased funding for this development. For example, BLM tripled its staff devoted to processing wind and solar energy applications. To help ensure that its actions are achieving their intended purposes, BLM issued an instruction memorandum in December 2012 aimed at increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of its renewable energy permitting process.
According to BLM respondents to a GAO questionnaire, industry representatives, and others GAO interviewed, many factors affect the pace of renewable energy development on Federal lands. Some of these factors are specifically tied to the agencies' permitting processes, primarily BLM's. For example, respondents cited effective coordination among the involved parties and the amount of resources the agency can devote to permitting as factors that facilitated the permitting process. On the other hand, they often cited problems with the quality of applications received as a factor that may hinder or slow the permitting process. Respondents also cited a number of factors outside of permitting agencies' control that can affect the pace of renewable energy development, such as access to transmission lines (which are often scarce in areas where renewable energy is abundant) and competition from electricity generated using conventional energy sources, such as natural gas.