White House Celebrates Leadership on Solar and Calls for Commitments to Support Solar Deployment and Jobs
To advance our nation’s energy and climate goals, the United States must be a leader in innovating and deploying clean energy. Solar is a vital component of the Administration’s all-of the above strategy. Supported by historic investments in research, development, and deployment, the price of solar technologies has decreased and the U.S. solar market has experienced rapid growth since President Obama took office.
Today’s event will be live-streamed on WhiteHouse.gov/live.
Calling for Commitments
President Obama is committed to making 2014 a year of action and has pledged to use the power of his phone and his pen to make progress on behalf of the American people. In that spirit, the White House is calling on leaders across sectors to make tangible commitments to support solar deployment and job creation. The White House will announce those commitments in coming weeks.
Highlighting Leaders in Solar Deployment
- Celebrating Solar “Champions of Change”: Across the country, individuals are taking the initiative to spur solar deployment – whether they are community leaders helping to reduce permitting times, business owners looking for a cleaner energy source, or homebuilders looking to offer new, renewable options for their customers.
Today, the White House is celebrating ten Solar Champions of Change who are driving policy changes at the local level to expand energy choices for Americans, grow jobs, and add new clean energy to the grid:
o Jessica Bailey, Director of Commercial and Industrial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE), Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority
o Donnel Baird, Founder and CEO, BlocPower
o Kate Bowman, Solar Project Coordinator, Utah Clean Energy
o Elyse Cherry, CEO, Boston Community Capital
o Ismael Guerrero, Executive Director, Denver Housing Authority
o Peter H. Marte, CEO, Hannah Solar LLC
o Henry Red Cloud, Founder & Sole Proprietor of Lakota Solar Enterprises
o Anya Schoolman, Executive Director of Community Power Network
o Tim Sears, Co-Founder, GRID Alternatives
o Rajendra Singh, D. Houser Banks Professor, Clemson University
Expanding Solar in Homes, Businesses, Schools, and Communities
- Funding Regional Solar Market Pathways: Today, the Energy Department announced a $15 million Solar Market Pathways funding opportunity to support state, tribal, and local leaders in developing plans that create the economic environment for cost-competitive solar deployment. The new Solar Market Pathways program will target broader regulatory and policy market barriers with a focus on stakeholder partnerships and commercial-scale solar. It will fund the development of multi-year plans and innovative programs to help spur significant solar market growth. Examples include establishing or expanding shared or community solar programs and local financing mechanisms, such as commercial property assessed clean energy (PACE).
- Providing Technical Assistance and Analysis to Support Solar at Federally-Assisted Housing: The Climate Action Plan calls for a target of 100 megawatts of installed capacity of renewable energy on-site at federally subsidized housing by 2020. The 100 megawatt target aims to make use of millions of federally-subsidized roofs with on-site generation potential and will more than triple the existing renewable energy capacity onsite. Today, the Energy Department’s SunShot initiative, which is dedicated to reducing soft-costs of solar power installations, is providing staff and resources to ensure we reach the 100 megawatt target, while the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is providing technical expertise and mapping support.
- Launching an “On-Site Renewables Challenge” as part of EPA’s Green Power Partnership: Since 2001, EPA’s Green Power Partnership has worked with businesses, local and state governments, schools, and Federal agencies to expand the use of clean renewable energy, including solar. More than 1,500 organizations have been recognized for their leadership as Green Power Partners, together purchasing enough green power annually to avoid the carbon emissions of more than 2.4 million homes. Today, EPA announced that the Green Power Partnership will aim to double the use of on-site renewable energy, including solar energy, at Partner facilities by the end of the decade. To support this goal, EPA is announcing a new On-site Renewables Challenge within the Green Power Partnership. The Partnership will track all Partners’ annual combined on-site renewable energy use, which will be updated quarterly. As part of the Challenge, EPA is inviting Partners to commit to increasing the amount of energy they produce and use from on-site renewables by the end of the decade.
- Sharing Best Practices with a “Solar Deployment Playbook”: To assist businesses looking to install solar, in the next few months the Energy Department will release the Commercial Solar Deployment Playbook. The playbook will help businesses to identify low-cost financing for solar energy, provide model contracts, and offer case studies of businesses improving their bottom line by deploying solar.
- Advancing Solar by Partnering with the Rural Utilities Service: Rural America offers excellent resources for renewable energy, and is home to electric co-ops that provide reliable, affordable power for their customers. To support the growth of renewable energy in rural areas, last year, Agriculture Department’s Rural Utility Service (RUS) Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program finalized rules to facilitate the development of distributed generation and solar in rural communities. To bolster this new RUS program, the Agriculture and Energy Departments will work with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), to develop tools, templates, and finance options for co-ops looking to deploy distributed solar in rural communities, including on Federally assisted housing.
- Leveraging Financing Tools to Deploy Solar: The growth of solar has been fueled in part by access to innovative financing tools. Today, DOE is announcing that in the coming months it will release an updated Guide to Federal Financing for Clean Energy. This guide will highlight financing programs located in various Federal agencies, such as the Treasury, EPA, and USDA, which can be used for energy efficiency and clean energy projects. Earlier this week, the Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office also announced the release of the draft Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Loan Guarantee Solicitation. This solicitation makes available at least $2.5 billion in loan guarantee authority, which can support innovative solar energy projects and will highlight projects focused on improving the functionality of distributed generation and energy storage.
- Bolstering Co-Investment in Renewable Energy and Natural Gas: The NREL’s Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis is hosting a series of workshops focused on the unique opportunities for greater synergistic use of natural gas and renewable energy. The workshops will be held in four locations: New York City, focusing on the investment community; Washington, DC, focusing on national policy; and the states of Texas and California, where both natural gas and renewables play a significant role in the economy, and could be used more synergistically.
Leading By Example
- Launching a Capital Solar Challenge: Over the last 5 years, the Federal government has worked to lead by example when it comes to reducing carbon emissions, increasing energy efficiency, expanding the use of clean energy. Today, the Administration is launching the Capital Solar Challenge, which will direct Federal agencies, military installations, and Federally-subsidized complexes to identify opportunities to deploy solar renewable energy at Federal locations across the National Capital Region. The President is charging the Energy Department and GSA to assist agencies in leading the Capital Solar Challenge with the goal of developing solar renewable power on Federal rooftops, covered parking, and appropriate open land. This program will capitalize on innovative financing and procurement models such as aggregated solar purchases, power purchases agreements, and energy performance contracts, to help lower their cost of electricity. The Capital Solar Challenge will align with efforts in the District to exponentially increase solar on Federally assisted housing as well as municipal buildings.
- Continuing to Support Solar Deployment at Military Installations: The Department of Defense – the single largest consumer of energy in the United States –committed to deploying 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military installations, including solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal, by 2025. To help meet this goal, on April 25, the U.S. Army will break ground on a solar array that will provide nearly 25 percent of the annual installation electricity required for Fort Huachuca. The project will be the largest Department of Defense solar array on a military installation to date and establishes a new path for innovative partnerships among the U.S. Army, other Federal agencies, private industry, and the utility providers, in addition to advancing the U.S. Army’s energy security objectives.
Building on Progress
Today’s announcements build on significant progress in the American solar industry. Supported by historic investments in research, development, and deployment, the price of solar technologies has decreased and the U.S. solar market has experienced rapid growth since President Obama took office. Last year was a record-breaking year for new solar installations, and the amount of solar power installed in the United States has increased nearly eleven fold – from 1.2 gigawatts in 2008 to an estimated 13 gigawatts today, which is enough to power more than 2.2 million American homes.
Last year, solar represented the second-largest source of new electricity added to the grid – growth that underscores significant progress, including:
- Steep Decline in Solar Technology Costs: Since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of solar panels has dropped more than 60% and the cost of a solar photovoltaic electric system has dropped by about 50%. Solar is now more affordable and more accessible for more American families and companies.
- Deployment of Solar on Public Lands and Buildings: Five years ago, there were no renewable energy projects on public lands. Today, the Interior Department is on track to permit enough renewable energy projects on public lands by 2020 to power more than 6 million homes; the Defense Department has set a goal to deploy three gigawatts of renewable energy – including solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal – on Army, Navy, and Air Force installations by 2025; and, as part of the Climate Action Plan, the Federal Government overall committed to sourcing 20% of the energy consumed in Federal buildings from renewable sources by 2020.
- Creation of Solar Jobs: According to industry analysis, solar now employs nearly 143,000 workers in the United States, a growth of more than 50% since 2010. Jobs in the solar industry are increasing faster than any other sector in the United States – by more than 20% each year. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar, supporting workers whose jobs can’t be outsourced.
ST Staff Writers
This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.