President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Copper Mountain Solar 1 Faiclity in Boulder City, Nev., on March 21, 2012. Photo courtesy The White House.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Copper Mountain Solar 1 Faiclity in Boulder City, Nev., on March 21, 2012. Photo courtesy The White House.

Credit: Lawrence Jackson


Following the release this week of a National Climate Assessment that asserts that negative effects of human-induced climate change are already widely affecting life across the United States, this morning President Barack Obama announced new executive actions that should lead to $2 billion in energy efficiency investments, smarter appliances, and training programs to grow the U.S. solar industry by 50,000 workers by 2020. The president also announced more than 300 private and public sector commitments to promote energy efficiency and grow the solar industry by 850 megawatts of deployed solar capacity. This solar capacity would generate enough power to support 130,000 homes, according to a release from the White House.

Among the federal initiatives announced by President Obama are:

  • A goal of an additional $2 billion in energy efficiency upgrades to federal buildings over the next three years. Such investments are structured to use long-term energy savings to pay for up-front costs at no net cost to taxpayers.
  • The launch of a High Performance Outdoor Lighting Accelerator to increase the adoption and use of high-efficiency outdoor lighting in the public sector, with the goal of replacing more than 500,000 outdoor lighting poles, with an initial focus on charter cities such as Detroit; West Palm Beach, Fla.; Little Rock, Ark.; and Huntington Beach, Calif.
  • Support of the 2013 ASHRAE Standard 90.1, with the Department of Energy confirming that it provides an 8.5 percent energy saving over the previous standard and up to a 30 percent savings over current predominant state energy codes
  • An expansion of Fannie Mae, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Federal Housing Administration's Green Preservation Plus program, which is a financing option that seeks to preserve quality affordable housing by encouraging investment in energy- and water-saving property investments. Formerly called Green Refinance Plus, this multifamily mortgage loan execution provides extra loan proceeds to make energy- and water-efficiency upgrades in amounts equal, at minimum, to 5 percent of the total mortgage loan amount.
  • An expansion of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Solar Instructor Training Network to support training programs at community colleges to assist 50,000 works to enter the solar industry by 2020. In addition, HUD and the DOE are partnering to advance education opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields to support energy literacy and solar industry employment opportunities for public housing residents.

The building industry is pledging help to reach the president's goals and promote energy efficiency and solar capacity. Among the private initiatives announced by the home building industry are:

  • Twenty-two new home builders committing to construct nearly 10,000 Zero Energy Ready Homes in partnership with the DOE. They include Bruns Realty Group, Caribella Homes, CCRB, Christian Builders, Clayton Homes, Cobblestone, David Weekly Homes, Desert Alliance for Community Empowerment, Garbett Homes, GEOS, Green Team Real Estate, HAO Texas Builder, HouZE, Hyde Homes, M Street Homes, Mandalay Homes, Meritage Homes, Midtown Residential, Mutual Housing California, New Town Builders, Nexus Energy Homes, and Palo Duro Homes.
  • Lennar Homes committing to more than double in size a program that includes solar as a standard feature in new homes and allows homeowners to purchase the solar energy produced on their roofs at a guaranteed 20 percent discount off of retail electricity rates for 20 years.
  • Pulte Homes offering solar an as option in every current community in Southern California and Nevada, as well as three communities in Arizona, resulting in a total of 11,200 new homes with solar capacity.
  • Balfour Beatty working on deploying solar on military base housing.
  • CertainTeed committing to provide solar capacity on 16,000 homes—an equivalent of 81 megawatts—over the next three years.
  • Scudder Roofing aiming to install solar on more than 500 homes and commercial entities over the next three years.
  • State Roofing Systems committing to installing 3 megawatts of solar over the next three years.
  • Beutler Corp. committing to 5.4 megawatts of residential and 3 megawatts of small commercial solar over the next three years.

In addition, 25 new states, cities, school districts, retailers, and multifamily housing, food service, hospitality, and manufacturing organizations are joining the Better Building Challenge, with a commitment to improve the energy efficiency of more than 1 billion square feet of space (the size of 17,000 football fields) by at least 20 percent by 2020. Twenty existing Better Building Challenge participants also have agreed to address water efficiency, and seven new financial organizations have also joined the Better Buildings Challenge and committed a total of $377.5 million to develop financing solutions and products to help promote energy efficiency upgrades in multifamily developments.