President Obama will announce Friday that he is using executive authority to push through a slew of energy-efficiency and solar energy measures, a move that comes as the White House has sharpened its focus on climate change.
Obama will announce more than 300 public and private commitments have been made to expand energy efficiency and solar energy deployment, White House officials said. He will approve energy efficiency and renewable energy policies that advocates have called effective, low-hanging fruit to slash carbon pollution.
Dan Utech, Obama's climate and energy adviser, and Mike Boots, the acting chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, told reporters that the news is an outgrowth of the National Climate Assessment report released Tuesday that detailed the ways in which every region of the country is experiencing the effects of climate change.
In all, the administration estimates the measures Obama announced Friday, which includes commitments from more than 300 public- and private-sector partners, would reduce carbon pollution by 380 million metric tons and save businesses $26 billion on energy costs.
Obama has said he would use executive action to address climate change while Congress remains gridlocked on the issue. In addition to the energy-efficiency and renewable energy measures announced Friday, the president has proposed carbon emissions standards for new power plants and will soon file a draft standard for existing ones. The administration also has strengthened fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles, tightened mercury and other toxic air pollution standards for power plants and has planned to double renewable energy generated on public land by 2020.
The announcement, which will be made at a Walmart in Mountain View, Calif., comes as energy-efficiency legislation is floundering in the Senate. Lawmakers are still hoping to hammer out a deal on the bill, which is sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, but the prospects are grim.
While the administration is once again going it alone on energy issues, Utech said he "remained hopeful" the Senate would approve the Shaheen-Portman measure.
"The president has made clear that he's ready to work with Congress at any time," Utech said.
The president announced participants would deploy 850 megawatts of solar power, enough to power 130,000 homes, and make energy-efficiency investments spread over 1 billion square feet of buildings.
Additionally, the Energy Department will work with community colleges to expand solar energy training programs, aiming to send 50,000 people into the solar industry workforce by 2020.
The administration also will authorize an additional $2 billion of energy-savings performance contracts for federal buildings through 2016, doubling the original commitment made in 2011. Those contracts come at no taxpayer cost, as they're multi-year arrangements that let private contractors collect energy savings accrued over time in exchange for making the initial upgrades.
The Treasury Department and the IRS also will clarify how real property is treated in a financing mechanism known as real estate investment trusts. Clean-energy advocates and lawmakers say that would help shore up whether solar energy qualifies for that treatment, which they say would unlock new investment by lowering financing costs.
This will "provide important clarity for the renewable energy industry," Utech said.
Obama also will announce the Energy Department has finalized efficiency standards for electric motors, such as those used in conveyor belts, and walk-in coolers and freezers, like those found in supermarkets. The DOE estimates that will avert 158 million metric tons of carbon pollution — equivalent to the annual electricity use of 21 million homes — and save $26 billion in energy costs by 2030.