Within the past few months, our nation has taken great strides forward when it comes to both clean energy and climate change.
Washington has released several announcements for limiting carbon pollution in power plants, along with plans to increase renewable energy and energy efficiency across the country. These actions will help accelerate the “green economy” and will create even more jobs within the clean energy sector and related industries.
The goal of the revised Clean Power Plan is to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 32% by 2030. This is an increase of only 9 percent from the original rules, but is a positive and historic step forward. In addition, the plan will stimulate more aggressive investments in clean energy technology while also improving energy efficiency standards.
Regardless of the minimal changes, strong opposition emerged immediately.
John Boehner, Speaker of the House, criticized the plan as “an expensive, arrogant insult to Americans who are struggling to make ends meet.” He suggested that it would slow economic growth and cause energy costs to rise dramatically and has vowed to kill the plan.
It is hard to accept the validity of the criticism in light of the most recent statistics. The solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy and in three weeks alone, as much solar energy was brought online as was in the entire year of 2008. The average cost of a solar electric system dropped by 50 percent since January of 2010 and distributed solar prices fell 10-20 percent in 2014 alone. Appliance efficiency standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy, that are already in place, will save American consumers nearly $480 billion on their utility bills through 2030, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Program continues to help save consumers more than $34 billion per year. Technology and innovation are moving the needle faster than ever before and we are all benefiting from this progress economically, socially and environmentally.
In response to the critics’ allegations, President Obama said: “They will claim that this plan will cost you money—even though this plan, the analysis shows, will ultimately save the average American nearly $85 a year on their energy bills”. He also addressed concerns about funds being wasted on clean energy, lost jobs, and the idea that the regulation would hurt minorities. He added that “The kinds of criticisms that you’re going to hear are simply excuses for inaction—they’re not even good business sense, they underestimate American business and American ingenuity,”
To strengthen the plan, additional actions to accelerate energy efficiency and renewable energy were introduced later in the month, including new guidelines for distributed energy and $1 billion in additional loan guaranteed authority. The plan will make residential PACE financing available, provide solar to military housing, $24 million to accelerate innovative solar technologies and more. Private business investments were also a key component to the implementation of several of these programs.
In the latest announcement, the administration emphasized plans to allow solar access to all Americans by launching a National Community Solar Partnership providing solar to nearly 50 percent of households and businesses that are renters. It has also set goals of 300 megawatts of renewable energy in federally subsidized housing, and for Co-ops, power companies and housing author partners to commit to place more than 260 solar projects in low-moderate housing to save on energy bills.
The timing is perfect, as the renewable energy sector is already leading the way toward a brighter and cleaner future. In 2014, solar was the top job creator out of the entire energy sector, and renewable energy accounted for more than two thirds of new energy generation. These actions will help to build the momentum that already exists and generate even more jobs in the United States.
To be competitive, ethical, and responsible in the global economy, it is critical for America to be a leader in setting carbon standards and accelerating our renewable energy sector.
Highlights of the Clean Power Plan, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Announcements
CLEAN POWER PLAN ANNOUNCEMENT:
The final Clean Power Plan sets flexible and achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions . By setting carbon pollution reduction goals for power plants and enabling states to develop tailored implementation plans to meet those goals, the Clean Power Plan is a strong, flexible framework that will:
• Provide significant public health benefits – The Clean Power Plan, and other policies put in place to drive a cleaner energy sector, will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent in 2030 compared to 2005 and decrease the pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog and can lead to more asthma attacks in kids by more than 70 percent. The Clean Power Plan will also avoid up to 3,600 premature deaths, lead to 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children, and prevent 300,000 missed work and school days.
• Create tens of thousands of jobs while ensuring grid reliability;
• Drive more aggressive investment in clean energy technologies than the proposed rule, resulting in 30 percent more renewable energy generation in 2030 and continuing to lower the costs of renewable energy.
• Save the average American family nearly $85 on their annual energy bill in 2030, reducing enough energy to power 30 million homes, and save consumers a total of $155 billion from 2020-2030;
• Give a head start to wind and solar deployment and prioritize the deployment of energy efficiency improvements in low-income communities that need it most early in the program through a Clean Energy Incentive Program; and
• Continue American leadership on climate change by keeping us on track to meet the economy-wide emissions targets we have set, including the goal of reducing emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
RENEWABLE ENERGY AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY ANNOUNCEMENT:
The executive actions and private sector commitments President Obama is announcing today will continue to promote the use and development of smart, simple, low-cost technologies to help households save on their energy bills and help America transition to cleaner, and more distributed energy resources. These include:
• Making $1 billion in additional loan guarantee authority available and announcing new guidelines for distributed energy projects utilizing innovative technology and states looking to access this financing;
• Unlocking residential Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing for single-family housing to make is easier for Americans to invest in clean energy technologies;
• Launching a new HUD and DOE program to provide home owners with a simple way to measure and improve the energy efficiency of their homes, by increasing homeowners borrowing power;
• Creating a DOD Privatized Housing Solar Challenge, and announcing companies are committing to provide solar power to housing on over 40 military bases across the United States, while saving military families money on energy bills and making military communities more energy secure;
• Announcing $24 million for 11 projects in seven states to develop innovative solar technologies that double the amount of energy each solar panel can produce from the sun;
• Approving a transmission line that will support bringing online a 485-megawatt photovoltaic facility that will be constructed in Riverside County and produce enough renewable energy to power more than 145,000 homes; and
• Creating an Interagency Task Force to Promote a Clean Energy Future for All Americans; and announcing independent commitments from local governments, utilities, and businesses that are stepping up to drive energy efficiency in more than 300,000 low-income households and investing more than $220 million in energy saving activities for veterans and low-income customers to help decrease their energy bills.
Last year, the United States brought online as much solar energy every three weeks as it did in all of 2008, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. And since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by 50 percent. The executive actions and private sector commitments that we are announcing today will help continue to scale up solar for all Americans, including those who are renters, lack the startup capital to invest in solar, or do not have adequate information on how to transition to solar energy. The key components of the initiative that the Administration is announcing today are:
• Launching a National Community Solar Partnership to unlock access to solar for the nearly 50 percent of households and business that are renters or do not have adequate roof space to install solar systems, including issuing a guide to Support States In Developing Community Solar Programs;
• Setting a goal to install 300 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy in federally subsidized housing and providing technical assistance to make it easier to install solar, including clarifying how to use Federal funding;
• Housing authorities, rural electric co-ops, power companies, and organizations in more than 20 states across the country are committing to put in place more than 260 solar energy projects, including projects to help low- and moderate- income communities save on their energy bills and further community solar; and
• More than $520 million in independent commitments from philanthropic and impact investors, states, and cities to advance community solar and scale up solar and energy efficiency for low- and moderate- income households.
To continue enhancing employment opportunities for all Americans in the solar industry, the Administration is announcing the following executive actions and private sector commitments, including:
• AmeriCorps funding to deploy solar and create jobs in underserved communities;
• Expanding solar energy education and opportunities for job training; and
• The solar industry is also setting its own, independent goal of becoming the most diverse sector of the U.S. energy industry, and a number of companies are announcing that they are taking steps to build a more inclusive solar workforce.