President Obama announced several new actions he is taking to support clean energy during his third annual State of the Union Address Tuesday night. Over the course of his speech, he reiterated his disdain with Congress in not passing comprehensive clean energy and climate change legislation over the last several years so he decided to boldly pursue Executive orders in order to bolster this sector, as opposed to leaving it in the hands of Congress. These actions are aimed at reducing the country’s reliance on foreign oil, stimulating green job creation, and making American clean energy companies more competitive with respect to foreign businesses.
First, President Obama announced that his Administration will allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. The bureaucratic process has negated numerous utility-scale solar and wind construction projects from being initiated or completed and has been a stumbling block for accelerated development activities due to intense government regulations. Many parts of the country that are ideal for utility-scale power have not been cited or approved for development so this action is aimed at overcoming these hurdles.
In late December, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced approval of two utility-scale renewable energy projects including wind and solar power via an accelerated federal review process that will generate nearly 500 megawatts of power, which is enough to power 150,000 homes and create up to 700 jobs. This approval includes the Sonoran Solar Energy Project, proposed by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, which will be the first-ever project carried out on public lands in Arizona. The photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are expected to generate 300 megawatts of power, or enough to power 90,000 homes, while this endeavor will create over 374 jobs dealing with construction, operation and maintenance. The other project approved by Secretary Salazar will lead to the first major step for the U.S. in developing an offshore wind transmission line on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.
Another major point President Obama stated in his speech is that the U.S. Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history, with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year. He did not offer any specifics, but it is possible that he is setting a more aggressive renewable portfolio standard for the military, which currently is set at 25 percent of its power consumed to be derived from renewable energy sources by 2025.
The third major action the President announced during his State of the Union speech dealt with his Administration’s plans to engage the U.S. Commerce Department to take swifter and more aggressive action in unfair trade practices with foreign manufacturers in order to level the playing field for American companies. This move was partly motivated by the massive unfair trade case won by a U.S. solar manufacturing company, SolarWorld, claiming that Chinese companies were dumping PV solar panels below cost in the U.S. to dominate market share and put U.S companies out of business. Ultimately, President Obama’s agenda will enhance the competitiveness of American manufacturers across the full gamete of alternative energy including but not limited to advanced batteries, electric vehicles, energy-efficient lighting, solar, wind turbines and smart grid products.
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