President Obama’s Walmart gig

Media in both Canada and the US have made much of the fact that President Obama visited a Walmart store in Mountain View, California, to make a series of announcements forming part of his administration’s climate change strategy. Much of the coverage seemed to imply criticism of his choice of Walmart for the announcement while ignoring details of the content of the announcement.

As all readers will be aware, Obama has understandably concluded that the chance of getting climate legislation through Congress in this session is essentially zero. His plans therefore focus on initiatives that he can implement by Administrative Order. Key elements of the new announcement include:

  • To enable a skilled workforce to support the growth of solar deployment across America, the DOE’s Solar Instructor Training Network will support training programs at community colleges across the country that will assist 50,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020.
  • Building on the success of the Defense Department’s coordinated efforts to purchase renewables – and leverage its buying power to deploy clean energy technologies like solar – the General Services Administration is identifying opportunities for potential Federal Aggregated Solar Procurements in both the National Capital Region and Northern California.
  • The Treasury Department and IRS will shortly clarify how certain investment rules relate to renewable energy installations. This is important because real estate investment trusts (REITs), a key component of many retail investors’ portfolios, generally hold only real property. The new guidance will provide clarity regarding the treatment of renewable energy installations in REITs, thereby helping to promote investment in the sector.
  • An additional $2 billion goal in federal energy efficiency upgrades to Federal buildings over the next 3 years.
  • A High Performance Outdoor Lighting Accelerator to increase the adoption and use of high efficiency outdoor lighting in the public sector. This Accelerator is aimed at replacing more than 500,000 outdoor lighting poles and developing best practice approaches to municipal system-wide upgrades.
  • Two final energy efficiency conservation standards: one for electric motors, which are frequently used to power devices such as conveyor belts and escalators, another standard for walk-in coolers and freezers, such as those used to display milk in supermarkets.
  • Preliminary affirmation that industry’s latest commercial building energy code – the 2013 edition of ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1 – will provide an additional 8.5 percent energy savings over the previous Standard, and up to 30 percent savings compared to today’s predominant state energy codes.
  • Fannie Mae and HUD/The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will be expanding the Green Preservation Plus program, an enhanced financing option aimed at preserving quality affordable housing by encouraging the investment in energy- and water-saving property improvements.

The President’s announcement also reported renewable energy and energy and efficiency commitments from several dozen private sector leaders in housing, homebuilding, commercial and industrial sectors. The complete announcement is at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/05/09/fact-sheet-president-obama-announces-commitments-and-executive-actions-a

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