Obama’s Move On Solar Is Equivalent To A Year Without 80 Million Cars

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"Obama’s Move On Solar Is Equivalent To A Year Without 80 Million Cars"

President Barack Obama speaks after touring Sempra's Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility, Wednesday, March 21, 2012, in Boulder City, Nev.

President Barack Obama speaks after touring Sempra’s Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility, Wednesday, March 21, 2012, in Boulder City, Nev.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

President Obama is expected to announce a series of executive actions and agreements on Friday morning that will advance solar power and energy efficiency in the United States, part of his pledge to tackle climate change without having to go through a gridlocked Congress.

According to a statement from the White House, the initiatives will represent an 850-megawatt increase in solar power deployed, or enough to power 130,000 homes. They will also lead to more $2 billion in energy efficiency investments in Federal buildings, $26 billion in savings for businesses on energy bills, and a 380 million metric ton decrease in carbon pollution — the equivalent of taking about 80 million cars off the road for a year, the statement said.

Here are six key actions detailed in the announcement:

Commitments from 300 business leaders to increase solar power

When President Obama makes the big announcement, he’ll be at a Mountain View, California-based Walmart, where he will announce that the company has agreed to double its onsite solar energy projects by 2020. The White House has also secured pledges from 300 other public- and private-sector business leaders to increase solar use, including Home Depot, Ikea, Yahoo, Google, and Goldman Sachs.

Solar and efficiency boosts for low-income housing

The Federal Housing Administration will expand its Green Preservation Plus program, which encourages owners of affordable housing properties to invest in energy efficiency improvements. To do that, the agency’s program offers mortgage loans, with the specific condition that five percent of that loan be used to reduce energy and water consumption at the property. The investment not only increases efficiency, but winds up improving the operating income for the building owner, lowering utility costs for low-income tenants.

The White House is also announcing commitments from some of the country’s largest affordable housing owners to deploy solar on their properties. These include a goal from WinnCompanies, the largest manager of affordable multifamily housing in the nation, to install an additional 4 megawatts of solar power by 2020, and a goal from the non-profit Hispanic Housing Development Corporation to add 530 kilowatts of additional solar by the end of 2015.

More college training programs for solar workers

The Department of Energy will build on its Solar Instructor Training Network, an initiative intended to support community college programs that train people to enter the solar industry. The program aims to help 50,000 people enter the solar workforce by 2020. The DOE also intends to increase educational opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

Better streetlights in cities across the country

A program called the High Performance Outdoor Lighting Accelerator will also be announced today, which intends to increase high-efficiency lighting in outdoor spaces across the country. Under the program, the Department of Energy intends to replace more than 500,000 outdoor lighting poles in Detroit, West Palm Beach, and Little Rock, among other charter cities.

New energy conservation regulations for big appliances

The Department of Energy will issue two final rules on Friday requiring better energy efficiency for electric motors — like the ones that power escalators — and walk-in coolers and freezers. The White House estimates the new rules will cut carbon pollution by about 158 million metric tons, which amounts to the electricity use of approximately 21 million U.S. homes. It also estimates that businesses will save more than $26 billion on their energy bills by installing the more efficient equipment.

A $2 billion investment in federal building efficiency

The President will also announce a goal to invest $2 billion for energy efficiency upgrades to federal buildings over the next three years. Combined with the $2 billion goal set in 2011, this means a total of $4 billion will given to federal contractors to make the upgrades to the buildings. The investments purport to be able to save billions in energy costs, promote energy independence, and, according to independent estimates, create tens of thousands of jobs in the construction sector.

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