President Obama Announces New Commitments to Drive Solar Development

On Friday, President Obama announced private sector goals and commitments for solar installation, applauded those private financial institutions which are “leading the way” on solar and renewable investments, and announced a series of “executive actions” which the Administration is taking to stimulate the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.  Read the White House Fact Sheet here.

The President’s announcement came in the middle of Senate debate on the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill which has been stalled for years in the US Senate.  And again this week, because of issues unrelated to energy efficiency, it appears that the bill will not advance.  The Administration has clearly decided – as they have on other energy and environment issues – to take steps which do not need Congressional action in order to advance the President’s energy agenda. 

These steps include:  expanding a DOE Solar Instructor Training Network for community colleges; educating public housing residents on energy literacy and energy employment opportunities; a government initiative to have multiple federal agencies coordinate clean energy purchasing to leverage economies of scale; a promise to have Treasury and the IRS provide clarity on how renewable energy installations will be treated in Real Estate Investment Trusts; a $2 billion goal in federal building energy efficiency upgrades; encouraging select municipalities to use high efficiency outdoor lighting; and expanding HUD/FHA financing opportunities for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements in affordable housing. 

In conjunction with the White House’s announcement, a number of commercial sector leaders made commitments to increase onsite solar generation at their facilities and within their supply chains.  Kaiser Permanente committed to increase onsite generation capacity with additional solar installations in Colorado and Hawaii, and is investigating adding as much as 40 megawatts of onsite solar capacity to its medical campuses throughout California.  Retailer Walmart committed to double the number of onsite solar energy projects at its U.S. stores.  Apple announced that its new 2.8 million square-foot headquarters will run entirely on renewables, including a 16 MW solar installation.  Google also announced a $1 million prize to develop the next generation of power inverters, enabling solar power in more homes and helping bring electricity to remote areas.  

These announcements follow the larger trend of companies who are developing and employing comprehensive energy strategies and becoming strategic consumers and energy producers, including use of on- and offsite renewable energy.   For some their energy strategy focuses primarily on lowering energy costs, minimizing exposure to volatile energy prices, stabilizing energy supply reliability and minimizing regulatory risks.  However, a growing number of companies are also driven by internal sustainability and emission reduction goals.  We have growing numbers of consumer clients asking for assistance to meet these goals by utilizing a broad range of options, from the most basic– for example participating in demand response programs– to more complex strategies such as purchasing offsite generation.  View our PDF graphic on strategic energy user options.

Regardless of the motivation or complexity of the strategy employed, companies are increasingly recognizing the competitive economic benefits of actively managing their energy needs and using renewable energy to hedge against long term price volatility and regulatory risk.   With the President’s announcement, we will undoubtedly see more companies embrace this trend.

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