Obama Launches Host of New Actions and Commitments on Renewables & Efficiency

(3Bl Media/Justmeans) - There is a sea change gradually sweeping across this country, propelled, perhaps, by the idea of an actual sea change rather than the familiar metaphorical one. Seas are rising, become less salty, more acidic. Currents are changing direction, giving birth to new winds, some of them quite temperamental.

We, the people, are beginning to turn away from the energy sources that turned us from a fledgling nation into a superpower. They have served us well, and everyone living today has benefited. But there was a hidden cost that we are slowly waking up to, a cost that is putting our modern world and everyone living upon it, at significant peril.

Awareness has spread slowly, with the government of the most powerful nation on the planet among the last to respond, hampered by a Congress that, to this day, clings stubbornly to denial, despite the overwhelming consensus of the great scientific establishments. Fortunately, both the President and many in the private sector including, ironically enough, many in the energy industry, recognize the danger and the importance of immediate and effective action.

This week President Obama announced a combination of executive actions and private sector commitments, designed to help the country move forward in reducing demand for carbon-based energy sources and accelerate the transition to renewables.

Included in the announcement were over 300 public and private sector commitments aimed at reducing carbon emissions and creating jobs through a concerted effort on solar deployment and energy efficiency. The commitments encompass some 850 MW of additional solar generation capacity as well as building energy efficiency measures covering one billion square feet of both residential and commercial buildings. The executive actions include $2 billion in energy efficiency investments in Federal buildings, improved appliance standards, and training programs to help an additional 50,000 workers enter the solar energy industry.

The new appliance standards address electric motors and walk-in coolers and freezers. They are expected to eliminate 158 million metric tons of carbon pollution while saving American consumers and businesses $26 billion on their energy bills.

Other executive actions involve updating building codes to include more energy efficient specifications. This is expected to eliminate another 230 million metric tons of carbon. Since 2009, updated building codes have saved Americans $44 billion on their energy bills. Enhanced financing options will also be provided, as well as, in certain designated charter cities, an accelerated high performance outdoor lighting program. When combined with the other energy efficiency standards unveiled earlier by this administration, these standards will achieve more than 70% of the administration’s goal of eliminating 3 billion tons of carbon pollution by 2030.

As ambitious as these steps are, they are equaled if not surpassed by the impressive number of public and private sector commitments obtained by the administration from entities as far-ranging as vegetable farms, rural electric co-ops, research universities, and major retailers such as Walmart, Home Depot and Ikea, to investment banks including Goldman Sachs and Citi, to Yahoo, Google, and General Motors. Participants are literally too numerous to mention. Despite the reactionary rhetoric of those who would prefer to go backwards (to the days when they were in charge), the American people are showing, once again, that they are the best judge of what is best for them.

A number of these commitments came in response to programs like the Better Buildings Challenge which was launched back in 2011. To date, it has seen over three billion square feet committed to efficiency measures, with partner funding reaching the $2 billion mark. This week’s call to action on solar deployment has seen a vigorous response from affordable housing developers, public housing authorities, and financial institutions, all committing to install and additional solar power, with 27 firms stepping up to the plate, right off the bat.

The announcement coincides with the launch of the largest solar photovoltaic power plant, the Agua Caliente Plant, in Yuma, Arizona. The plant has a capacity of 290 MW and is expected to offset some 324,000 tons of CO2. That’s equivalent to taking 69,000 cars off the road.

These are all encouraging developments, though the battle is far from over. Conservatives are still making every effort to block solar development for reasons that are getting harder and harder to fathom, aside from short term impacts to their stock portfolios. But even as the tide is rising, you can see that it’s beginning to turn.

[Image credit: amateur_photo_bore: Flickr creative commons]