U.S. President Barack Obama has renewed his commitment to promoting clean energy and energy efficiency with a set of executive orders designed to drive wider adoption of greener technologies. The president outlined his goals in a speech on August 24, in which he called for a greater penetration of renewable energy sources—wind and solar in particular.
The president’s executive orders encompass funding and a mix of private sector obligations, including:
- Providing $1 billion in additional federal loan guarantees available for distributed energy projects using innovative technologies.
- Releasing residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing for single-family homes to invest in clean energy technologies.
- Creating a Department of Defense Privatized Housing Solar Challenge, as well as noting that companies are committing to providing solar power to housing on more than 40 military bases across the United States.
- Announcing $24 million for 11 projects in seven states to develop advanced solar technologies that double the amount of energy each solar panel can produce.
- Approving a transmission line that will support a 485 MW photovoltaic facility to be constructed in Riverside County, California and produce enough renewable energy to power more than 145,000 homes.
- Creating a new interagency task force to promote clean energy, and announcing commitments from local governments, utilities, and businesses to drive energy efficiency in more than 300,000 low-income households, as well as investing more than $220 million in energy saving activities for veterans and low-income customers to help lower energy bills.
Energy Cloud and New Utility Thinking
These moves by the president and his administration are part of a larger trend already taking place, which Navigant Research has dubbed the energy cloud. In this emerging scenario, a broad range of technical, commercial, environmental, and regulatory changes are expected to combine to alter the traditional hub-and-spoke grid architecture. These changes are also resonating among some utilities. A recent survey of utility executives found that some 30% of respondents are planning investments in behind-the-meter technology (such as microgrids, energy storage, and distributed generation), and more than 40% of respondents are considering these types of investments.
The effort to promote clean energy has momentum and the government at the federal level can play a role, but utilities, their customers, and technology vendors are also needed to sort out what works and what doesn’t as part of a sustained effort. The approach taken by New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (NY REV) seems to strike the right balance of government regulators setting some new guidelines and letting market participants come up with solutions and business models that can drive the cleaner energy market forward.
Tags: Policy & Regulation, Renewable Energy, Residential Energy Innovations, Utility Transformations
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