Thanks President Obama! Orders 20% Renewable Energy in Federal Government by 2020

It’s about time we’ve heard these words:

Today, President Obama said the US must lead the world by example on climate change …

As he issued an Executive Order directing every federal agency to get 20% of its annual energy from renewables by 2020, almost tripling current levels in seven years! 

Obama Clean Energy

Currently, the federal government gets 7% of its electricity from renewables.

It says, "In order to create a clean energy economy that will increase our Nation’s prosperity, promote energy security, combat climate change, protect the interests of taxpayers, and safeguard the health of our environment, the Federal Government must lead by example."

He gave federal agencies milestones to meet:

  • at least 10% renewables in 2015
  • at least 15% in 2016-2017
  • at least 17.5% in 2018-2019
  • at least 20% in 2020 and after 

They can do so in this order: install projects on-site; contract for on-site projects; buy renewable electricity. Where possible they should be sited on brownfields, former landfills and mine sites.

"These standards are important. The federal steps, and similar measures the states are taking [through Renewable Portfolio Standards], will drive about half the growth in this sector by 2020. But Congress must also act, and one big step would be to extend current federal tax credits to maintain the job growth already created in the wind, solar and energy-efficiency industries," says Nathaneal Green, Director of Renewable Energy Policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Today’s executive order follows up on one from 2009 – Executive Order 13514 on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and
Economic Performance
, which set aggressive targets for reducing energy use, carbon pollution and operational waste.

It called for:

  • reducing emissions from fuels and buildings 28% by 2020
  • cut indirect emissions 13% by 2020 (eg, employee business travel and commuting)
  • new buildings to be net zero energy by 2030, with 30% less water use and 50% reduction in waste to landfills.

Since then, the Federal
Government has:

  • Cut greenhouse gas emissions more than 15%; 

  • Cut energy use per square foot in Federal buildings by 9%;

  • Increased use of renewable energy by over 7%

Since 2009, the EPA, for example, has reduced energy use by almost 8% (25% since 2003) – saving taxpayers $1.5 million a year on utility costs – uses 100% renewable energy from projects and by buying certificates; and uses 25% less water (30 million fewer gallons a year.

Building Performance & Energy Management

The executive order also directs agencies to install energy and water meters and to use EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager for annual benchmarking. The information must be made available to the public through the Department of Energy’s tracking website. Where feasible, they should participate in demand response programs.

The federal government occupies nearly 500,000 buildings.

Also this week, the president expanded the Better Buildings Challenge to multifamily housing, and local
governments, and extended efforts to increase federal buildings’ energy efficiency through performance contracts through 2016.

The Department of Agriculture announced it will give $250 million in grants to rural
electric cooperatives to be used as loans for energy upgrades and renewable energy for their business and residential

Since 2008, the US has doubled its use of renewable energy and the Department of Defense is committed to deploying 3 gigawatts of
renewable energy – 25% of its energy by 2025. Solar and wind farms approved since 2009 on public land will power 4.6 million homes. The president is committed to doubling renewable energy again by 2020 as part of his Climate Action Plan.

Last month, Obama issued an executive order directing federal agencies to consider climate impacts and resilience before approving infrastructure projects. He also announced the US would begin publishing annual totals of federal subsidies for fossil fuels.  

Other executive orders call for increasing industrial use of Combined Heat & Power 50% by 2020 and Environmental Justice.

Today, federal agencies released their 4th Annual Sustainability Plans, which outline new actions on this path:     

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