Obama Motivates 300+ Commitments to Solar, Energy Efficiency

Present Barack Obama announces energy efficiency and solar energy pledges at the Walmart in Silicon Valley, California, May 9, 2014 (Photo by Global Green USA)


MOUNTAIN VIEW, California, May 9, 2014 (ENS) – “Climate change is real and we have to act now,” said President Barack Obama today, announcing hundreds of commitments and executive actions to advance solar deployment and energy efficiency in both public and private sectors.

Speaking at the Walmart store in Mountain View, Obama said, “I know this looks like a typical Walmart, but it is different – and that’s why I’m here. A few years ago, you decided to put solar panels on the roof of the store. You replaced some traditional light bulbs with LEDs. You made refrigerator cases more efficient. And you even put in a charging station for electric vehicles. And all told, those upgrades created dozens of construction jobs and helped this store save money on its energy bills.”

Present Barack Obama announces energy efficiency and solar energy pledges at the Walmart in Silicon Valley, California, May 9, 2014 (Photo by Global Green USA)

“More and more companies like Walmart are realizing that wasting less energy isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for business. It’s good for the bottom line,” the President said.

Today, Obama announced more than 300 private and public sector commitments to create jobs and cut carbon emissions with energy efficiency improvements and solar energy.

The commitments come from private sector organizations engaged in multifamily housing, homebuilding and home improvement, retail, food service, and hospitality, and rural electric cooperatives. In the public sector, the federal government, states, cities and school districts made commitments.

The pledges represent more than 850 megawatts of solar deployed – enough to power nearly 130,000 homes – as well as energy efficiency investments that will lower bills for more than one billion square feet of buildings.

Walmart, for instance, has committed to reducing energy consumption across 850 million square feet of space, an area larger than half of the city of San Francisco.

The Home Depot will position over 1,000 stores to be learning centers for residential solar power systems by 2016.

America’s electric cooperatives announced that 199 rural electric co-ops in 27 states and American Samoa are planning solar installations that will provide over 150 megawatts of new solar capacity by 2020.

In addition, President Obama announced new executive actions that will lead to $2 billion in energy efficiency investments in federal buildings.

Solar panels on the roof of a Walmart store in Glendora, California (Photo by Walmart)

“Two years ago, I ordered $2 billion in energy upgrades to federal buildings,” he said. “Today, I’m ordering an additional $2 billion in upgrades over the next three years. And these upgrades will create tens of thousands of construction jobs and save taxpayers billions of dollars.”

Obama said, “Cities, schools, businesses, the federal government – we’re all going to pledge to waste less energy and we’ve got concrete strategies that we know work.”

The President also announced two final energy efficiency conservation standards for smarter appliances that he expects will cut carbon pollution by more than 380 million metric tons – equivalent to taking 80 million cars off the road for one year – and will save businesses nearly $26 billion on their energy bills.

The Department of Energy, DOE, is issuing one standard for electric motors, like those used to power conveyor belts and escalators, and another standard for walk-in coolers, freezers and refrigerators, such as those used to display drinks in supermarkets.

Through 2030, these standards will help cut carbon pollution by about 158 million metric tons – equivalent to the annual electricity use of more than 21 million U.S. homes.

Appliance Standards Awareness Project executive director Andrew deLaski said, “The Obama administration has hit home runs with these two new energy-saving standards. By spurring improved efficiency in electric motors and supermarket refrigeration systems, they will reduce energy waste, save money and cut pollution.”

Since last June, when Obama announced his Climate Action Plan, the Energy Department has issued nine proposed and five final energy conservation standards. When combined with the final rules already issued under this administration, they will exceed 70 percent of the President’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by at least three billion metric tons by 2030.

As part of the Climate Action Plan, to break through market and technical barriers, last December the Energy Department created three Better Building Accelerators to demonstrate specific innovative ways to accelerate investment in energy efficiency.

Today, seven new financial allies are stepping up to the Better Buildings Challenge, committing a total of $377.5 million in financing solutions and products to help owners and managers of multifamily housing with energy efficiency upgrades.

street light
Detroit will get new street lighting to replace older, less efficient lights. (Photo by detroitmi96)

Also today, DOE is launching a new High Performance Outdoor Lighting Accelerator aimed at replacing more than 500,000 outdoor lighting poles and developing best practice approaches to municipal system-wide upgrades in five charter cities:

  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Mid-America Regional Council representing the Kansas City, Missouri metro area
  • West Palm Beach, Florida
  • Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Huntington Beach, California

Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Administration announced the expansion of the Green Preservation Plus program, an enhanced financing option that provides extra loan proceeds to owners of affordable housing properties to make energy-efficient and water-efficient property improvements equal to at least five percent of the mortgage loan amount.

Finally, today Obama announced training programs at community colleges across the country that will help 50,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020.

The DOE’s Solar Instructor Training Network will support training programs at six community colleges:

  • San Francisco City College, San Francisco, California
  • Oglala Lakota Community College, Kyle, South Dakota
  • Kankakee Community College, Kankakee, Illinois
  • St. Phillips College, San Antonio, Texas
  • Forsyth Technical Community College, Winston Salem, North Carolina
  • Greenfield Community College, Greenfield, Massachusetts

This training effort builds upon SunShot’s existing Solar Instructor Training Network of nearly 400 community colleges in 49 states that have trained over 22,000 people to join the solar industry since 2010.

DOE is partnering with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to advance available educational opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields to support energy literacy and employment opportunities in the solar sector for public housing residents.

President Obama also announced the movement of private sector industries towards solar investment and deployment.

President Obama at Walmart, May 9, 2014 (Photo by VR)

“Last month,” he told the crowd of about 200 at Walmart, “I called up leaders from a whole range of industries and made the economic case for why solar is a good idea. And they listened. And today, more than 300 organizations – from homebuilders, to affordable housing owners, to companies like Home Depot and Apple – announced that they are going to expand the use of solar energy, thereby creating more jobs and cutting carbon pollution.”

“We’ve got public banks like Connecticut’s Green Bank and private banks like Goldman Sachs ready to invest billions of dollars in renewable energy,” Obama said.

“Walmart has already got the most installed on-site solar capacity of any company in America. And now you’ve announced plans to double that capacity. And it’s all part of your goal to buy or produce seven billion kilowatt hours of renewable energy by 2020 – something that could save Walmart $1 billion a year in energy costs.”

Obama said the Treasury Department and the IRS are making it easier for renewable energy companies to operate and attract investment.

So we know that generating more clean energy, using less dirty energy, and wasting less energy overall can be good for business and consumers. And it’s also good for the world that we leave for our children.

“So often, when we hear about how we’re going to deal with this really serious issue, people say we can’t afford to do it; it won’t be good for the economy,” Obama said. “It will be good for the economy long term – and if we don’t, that will be bad for the economy.”

“Rising sea levels, drought, more wildfires, more severe storms – those are bad for the economy. So we can’t afford to wait. And there’s no reason why we can’t even go further than we are so far by working with states and utilities, and other organizations to change the way we power our economy,” the President said.

Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas chairs the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee (Photo by Imazurak)

The President’s announcements come just three days after the third U.S. National Climate Assessment issued Tuesday by the U.S. Global Change Research Program that warned climate change is already impacting every region of the United States and major sectors of the U.S. economy with record heat and severe drought, torrential rains, storms, hurricanes and sea level rise.

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, was not persuaded by the evidence in this assessment.

“This is a political document intended to frighten Americans into believing that any abnormal weather we experience is the direct result of human CO2 emissions,” said Smith.  “In reality, there is little science to support any connection between climate change and more frequent or extreme storms.  It’s disappointing that the Obama administration feels compelled to stretch the truth in order to drum up support for more costly and unnecessary regulations and subsidies.”

In January the Republicans who form the majority on the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted down an amendment proposed by a Democrat that would have stated conclusively that climate change is occurring.

Obama used his Walmart speech to again urge Congressional action to curb climate change. But, he said, he is not waiting for Congress to act.

“Unfortunately, inside of Washington we’ve still got some climate deniers who shout loud, but they’re wasting everybody’s time on a settled debate. Climate change is a fact,” declared Obama.

“We’ve got more work to do. And I want to work with Congress to do it. Unfortunately, Congress has not always been as visionary on these issues as we would like. It can be a little frustrating. But in this Year of Action, wherever I can go ahead and create my own opportunities for new jobs, I’m going to take it,” the President said.

solar panels
Solar panels on top of parking structures, Kaiser Permanente La Mesa, Arizona (Photo by Kaiser Permanente)

“So that’s why this fight is so important,” he said. “That’s why the sooner we work together to adapt the economy to this reality of climate change, the more likely it is that we do right by our kids and leave a more stable world. And ultimately that’s what motivates a whole lot of us.”

Many large corporations are motivated.

Walmart commits to double the number of onsite solar energy projects at U.S. stores, Sam’s Clubs, and Distribution Centers by 2020, as part of their commitment to drive the production or procurement of seven billion kWh of renewable energy by the end of the decade.

Kaiser Permanente commits to increase its onsite generation capacity in 2014 with additional solar installations at numerous locations, including their new Oakland Medical Center, the Hidden Lake Medical Offices in Colorado, and at various Hawaii sites; and is investigating adding as much as 40 megawatts of onsite solar power capacity through installations at dozens of medical campuses in California.

Ikea commits to use renewable energy generation at new U.S. IKEA store locations, with a focus on evaluating the viability of using solar and geothermal generation. Ikea is also announcing that the Miami, Florida store, which will open in summer 2014, will be their 40th U.S. location with solar panels.

Apple, already running its data centers on 100 percent renewable energy, is now building a 2.8 million square-foot headquarters which will also run entirely on renewables, including 16 megawatts of rooftop solar. Apple has committed to powering all its facilities with green energy sources and has already achieved 94 percent of that goal.

Clif Bar is launching their 50/50 by 2020 initiative, asking supply chain partners to use green power, including solar, for the electricity used to make their ingredients, packaging and products. Their goal is to have 50 key supply chain partners transition to at least 50 percent green power by 2020.

Viridity Energy will drive the creation of 300 megawatts of new battery storage for solar and other renewables by 2017.

Yahoo is committing to add a solar installation to its Sunnyvale headquarters by early 2015 to complement the company’s efforts to source from clean energy.

Google is announcing a $1 million prize to develop the next generation of power inverters, enabling solar power in more homes and helping bring electricity to Earth’s most remote places.

And farmers are doing their part.

Bonipak, a 75-year old farm and one of the largest growers and processors of fresh vegetables distributing to retailers, wholesalers and food service customers worldwide has set a goal to install over two megawatts of solar over the next year

Taylor Farms, which partners with hundreds of farmers across North America to produce ingredients for salads, set a goal to install one megawatt of solar.

Environmentalists are applauding Obama’s new actions.

Environmental Defense Fund Vice President, US Climate and Energy, Jim Marston said, “The executive actions announced today will result in sensible energy efficiency improvements, create jobs, and help both families and businesses lower their energy bills.”

“As last week’s National Climate Assessment demonstrated, we have no time to waste,” said Marston. “We look forward to the next step, EPA’s expected announcement on June 2nd of the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, our nation’s largest source of climate pollution.”

Greenpeace USA climate and energy campaign director Gabe Wisniewski said, “The fact that some of the most successful and innovative companies in the economy like Google, Apple and Yahoo are embracing solar power shows that it’s ready for primetime. The only thing stopping millions of Americans from following them is regressive utilities like Duke Energy, which are clinging to their century-old monopoly business models and blocking their customers from harnessing the sun.”

On Monday, Greenpeace will release a new report, “Energy [R]evolution – A Sustainable USA Energy Outlook,” which details how the U.S. economy can quickly move to nearly 100 percent renewable energy.

Letha Tawney with the World Resources Institute said, “With the price of renewable energy plummeting, there is no longer a question of choosing between an affordable energy option or a low-carbon option – that choice is now one and the same.

“WRI’s research has shown time and time again that renewable energy can be the most affordable option for businesses,” said Tawney. “The cost of solar panels has dropped 80 percent since 2008, resulting in a surge of interest from households to multinational corporations. In states like Texas, Colorado, and Minnesota, utilities are also finding that providing their customers with renewable energy is cheaper than using fossil fuels.”

solar worker
Solar power puts people to work. Here, Allison Gray measures the optical efficiency of a solar trough collector. (Photo courtesy NREL)

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, is delighted with today’s commitments.

“In many ways, the solar commitment made today by more than 300 leading U.S. businesses, including Walmart, Apple and IKEA, is like getting a triple-A investment rating from Moody’s or Standard and Poor’s. Solar has become a ‘street-smart’ investment. These companies are expanding their use of solar because it makes sense from both a business and social responsibility viewpoint.”

“This bold initiative is part of a solar boom in America that is already taking place. Today, more than 30 utility-scale, clean energy projects are under construction, putting thousands of electricians, steelworkers and laborers to work, while helping to reduce dangerous carbon emissions,” said Resch.

“Smart public policies, like the solar Investment Tax Credit, have helped to create 143,000 American jobs in the solar industry, pumped tens of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy, spurred private sector innovation and investment, and helped to fight climate change. They’ve also helped to make solar the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America,” he said.

Since he took office in 2009, Obama said, he has taken more than 20 executive actions to limit climate change.

“As Americans, we don’t look backwards. We look forward,” declared Obama today. “We don’t fear the future, we seize it. We shape it. And when it comes to energy, we have a chance to shape that sector that is probably going to have more to do with how well our economy succeeds than just about any other. We are blessed when it comes to energy, but we’re much more blessed when it comes to the innovation and the dynamism and the creativity of our economy.”

“If we do our part right now to rebuild an economy and transition to a clean energy future,” Obama said, “we will create new jobs, we will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we will leave our children with a better America and a better future.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2014. All rights reserved.


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