Obama touts renewable energy commitment

There’s no national renewable portfolio standard for the whole of the United States of America, but the U.S. government has one, sort of, and President Obama is upping the ante on it.

The White House on Thursday said the president had directed the government to source 20 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020, a more than a doubling of the current level. The move puts in place in legal fashion what the president promised to do when he described a new Climate Action Plan back in June.

The president at a Daimler plant in North Carolina in 2012 (image via White House)

The renewable energy target, which includes the caveat that it will be sought “to the extent economically feasible and technically predictable,” offers agencies a stepladder to take to 20 percent, from 10 percent in fiscal 2015, to 15 percent in 2016 and 2017, then 17.5 percent the following two years, and finally to 20 percent in 2020. (A quick note: The government’s biggest energy user, the military, has got its own set of energy-use goals, some more aggressive than this.)

To make the renewable energy it does use go farther, the Presidential Memorandum issued by Obama also requires more stringent metering and sub-metering of energy and water use by agencies and public disclosure of benchmark energy performance data.

And there’s Green Button. This is the White House initiative to encourage utilities and electricity suppliers a way to get detailed data on their energy use and costs through the Web and smartphones. The memorandum exhorts agencies to use it when they can and calls on the General Services Administration to work with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency to develop strategies for implementation.

With the release of this new directive, the president took the opportunity to point out progress made in his nearly five years in office, claiming at least three big achievements from the 2009 Executive Order 13514:

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 15 percent from FY 2008 levels – the equivalent of permanently taking 1.5 million cars off the road.
  • Reduced energy use per square foot in Federal buildings by more than 9 percent since FY 2008, curbing pollution and reducing utility bills.
  • Consumed more than 7 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind in FY2013, exceeding statutory requirements and promoting homegrown energy industries.