President Barack Obama speaks after touring Sempra's Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility, Wednesday, March 21, 2012, in Boulder City, Nev.
Following the release of a congressionally-mandated report showing that global warming is already having costly effects across the United States, the White House is taking action on Friday to boost renewable energy programs via the public and private sectors.
The first announcement hits close to home for the Obamas, as the White House announced that the solar panels on the roof of the White House residence are now up and generating electricity.
Under pressure from climate advocates, the White House agreed to install the panels back in 2010. This marks the first time the White House is generating some of its own energy since the Carter administration installed them in 1979 (President Reagan dismantled the panels in 1986). The panels will provide 6.3 kilowatts of solar generation, which is "the typical size for the average American house," said James Doherty, a White House staff member, in a video on the White House website.
This is not enough energy to power the entire White House complex, but security concerns prevented the installation of a larger system on the White House roof, Doherty said.
In addition to the White House panels, President Obama is scheduled to announce more than 300 commitments to advance solar power deployment and energy efficiency measures across the country during a stop on Friday at a solar-powered Walmart store in Mountain View, California.
The announcements keep with the administration's "Climate Action Plan," which was outlined in June 2013. The measures also continue with the theme of executive action that bypasses a Congress that is deeply divided on the very existence of manmade global warming.
The White House says the commitments, if achieved, will together 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 new energy efficiency standards alone would help cut about 160 million metric tons of carbon pollution by 2030, the White House says.
Solar energy deployment has increased dramatically in recent years. According to the Energy Information Administration, about a quarter of new power generation capacity in 2013 was from solar, which came in second, behind natural gas. One factor driving the surge in solar use is a rapid drop in the cost of solar panels.
According to a White House fact sheet, the average price of solar panels has dropped by 60% since 2011. Since 2008, the White House said, the amount of solar power installed in the United States has increased nearly elevenfold -– from 1.2 gigawatts to an estimated 13 gigawatts today.
The slew of clean energy and energy efficiency programs that President Obama is rolling out on Friday include two new energy efficiency standards for appliances and equipment, including large electric motors that are used in factories to power assembly lines, and walk-in coolers and freezers. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy,
these standards could save more than $26 billion in electric bills by 2030.these standards could save more than $26 billion in electric bills by 2030.
The private sector commitments include major new steps from commercial giants like Walmart, Ikea and Apple. For its part, Walmart is planning to double the number of onsite solar energy projects at U.S. stores, Sam’s Clubs, and distribution centers by 2020, which is part of the company's plan to drive the "production or procurement" of 7 billion kilowatt hours of renewable energy by the end of the decade.
“We know from experience that investing in energy innovation allows us to save money, reduce carbon pollution, and create jobs," said Bill Simon, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., in a press release.
Apple already powers 100% of its data centers using renewables, including rooftop solar panels, and is building a 2.8 million-square-foot headquarters that will also run entirely on renewables. As part of the White House initiative, Yahoo committed to adding a solar installation to their Sunnyvale headquarters by early 2015.