Wednesday, August 26, 2015

President Obama's New Renewable Energy Initiatives

At the start of a national climate and energy tour President Obama has outlined plans to further his efforts to move the US away from fossil fuels and towards renewables. These plans include support for distributed energy and home based efficiency. The first stop of his tour brought him to Nevada, which has emerged as a hotbed of cleantech activity.

On Monday August 24th President Barack Obama and Senate Minority Leader, Nevada's Harry Reid attended the eighth annual National Clean Energy Summit. The conference took place in Las Vegas, a city that is surrounded by solar plants. The President delivered an address at the Mandalay Bay convention center which is part of a complex that includes a 20 acre solar array on its roof.

This is a fitting setting for the President's new renewable energy initiatives. The state has the largest geothermal potential in the US and it is already a leader in solar although Nevada's potential far exceeds current installations. Solar jobs in the state increased by 146 percent in 2014 giving Nevada the highest number of per capita solar jobs in the US. Nevada is also home to a number of clean energy industries like Tesla Motors $5 billion battery Gigafactory.

Reid, introduced Obama as, "the leader who finally put us on the path to stop climate change." As part of his speech the President offered support for rooftop solar on American homes. "The real revolution going on here is that people are beginning to realize that they can take more control over their own energy," Obama said.

In the context of ongoing Republican obstructionism that makes passing legislation impossible, the President has indicated that his plan is focused on a combination of executive orders, as well as partnerships with states and the private sector.

The President derided the climate ignorance of republicans like Inhofe and those in the fossil fuel industry who actively oppose renewable energy. Obama singled out the Koch brothers, oil billionaires who claim to be advocates of a free market, until that market embraces clean energy. He pointed to Republicans who oppose renewables, as the bedrock of a misguided political philosophy.

The President's plan will expand access to a loan program that will allow homeowners to get up front financing for clean energy and efficiency upgrades. The new initiative also includes an additional $1 billion in federal loan guarantees from the Energy Department for things like rooftop solar and battery technologies.

The President also addressed EPA’s recently finalized Clean Power Plan, one the administrations landmark achievements. The EPA conservatively expects the Clean Power Plan will enable states to get more than a quarter of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

The President will visit New Orleans tomorrow August 27th for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, where he is expected to talk about preparedness in the face of extreme weather related to climate change. Before the end of the month he will also travel to the Arctic, the epicenter of climate change. He will likely address melting Alaskan glacial ice and the erosion of Arctic shoreline.

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