State of the Union and Powering Forward Report on energy issues

Last night President Obama delivered his State of the Union address and while he didn’t address energy efficiency specifically as he has done in this forum in the past, climate and energy issues were atop his agenda. You can read that excerpt below or the full speech here.

The ways in which the President, in addition to or instead of Congress, can promote clean energy and energy efficiency were recently outlined in the “Powering Forward: Presidential and Executive Agency Actions to Drive Clean Energy in America” by the Center for the New Energy Economy and Colorado State University.

Here are some key excerpts from the report:

In March 2013 President Obama met with 14 energy thought leaders, representing a variety of stakeholder groups, to discuss how he could further pursue a clean energy agenda using his lawful authority. Following the meeting, the leaders asked the Center for the New Energy (CNEE) to undertake a deeper examination of the President’s options in five discrete areas. In response, CNEE launched an eight-month initiative to gather ideas for additional presidential action on climate and clean energy. In dialogues, roundtables and peer reviews, CNEE engaged more than 100 participants, including chief executive officers, chief financial officers and other top executives from industry, academia, research institutions, NGOs and state and local governments. CNEE asked them what new actions by the President and his executive agencies would help our nation be more effective in meeting our climate and our energy goals.

The five areas of focus are:

1. Doubling energy productivity

2. Financing renewable energy

3. Producing natural gas responsibly

4. Developing alternative fuels and vehicles, and

5. Enabling electric and gas utilities to adapt to the new realities of the 21st century

The full report offers President Obama and his administration more than 200 recommendations for America’s transition to a clean energy economy – recommendations that CNEE believes can be implemented with the President’s existing authority.

Focusing on “Doubling Energy Productivity” a few recommendations follow:

•       Amend the December 2011 Energy Saving Performance Contracts (ESPC) directive to require that agencies execute $1 billion in energy saving contracts in each of the next five years.

•       Direct agencies to use ESPC more widely to fund efficiency projects in public housing, demand-response programs, data center consolidations, combined heat and power systems, waste-to-energy projects, and other energy-saving projects.

•       Order the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to complete its review of new appliance efficiency standards within 90 days, as its own rules require.

•       Direct the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Housing Finance Authority to analyze government mortgage data to find out whether residential energy efficiency investments reduce mortgage defaults. If they do, direct federal agencies that administer mortgage programs to reflect this benefit in their loan terms. Encourage private lenders to do the same.

•       Allow electric utilities to earn credit for energy efficiency investments beyond the fence lines of their power plants as they comply with EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from generation plants.

•       Work with the building industry to develop a model national code for net-zero energy buildings.


For the complete list of CNEE’s recommendations to the President, go to .


The Potential of Productivity: The President’s challenge to the country is mirrored in a report issued a week before his 2013 State of the Union address by the Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy. Convened by the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) in 2012, the commission found that:

Over the past 30 years, the U.S. has made large gains in energy productivity. More specifically, the U.S. has expanded its economic output by more than three times the 1970 level, while the demand for energy and power resources grew by only 50% during the same time period. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), three quarters of the energy required to fuel this economic growth did not stem from new energy supplies, but rather an assortment of efficiency measures.

Despite these gains, the opportunities for greater energy productivity remain ubiquitous. They range from how we build our cities to how we get from place to place and how we design our vehicles, appliances and homes. The Alliance Commission reported that the building sector alone offers an investment opportunity in the hundreds of billions of dollars and savings as high as $1 trillion over the next 10 years – 30% of what we now spend annually on electricity. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that our manufacturing sector, which accounts for 11% of our GDP and 27% of our energy consumption, can improve its energy productivity by a third between now and 2035.


*Energy and climate excerpt from 2014 State of the Union (full transcript):

“Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The “all the above” energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades. (Applause.) One of the reasons why is natural gas. If extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. (Applause.) Businesses plan to invest almost a hundred billion dollars in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas. (Applause.) Meanwhile, my administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and jobs growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, our communities. And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations. (Applause.) Now, it’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar too. Every four minutes another American home or business goes solar, every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do. (Cheers, applause.)

And even as we’ve increased energy production, we’ve partnered with businesses, builders and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months I’ll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump. And taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. (Applause.)

But we have to act with more urgency because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air. The shift — (applause) — the shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require some tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. (Applause.) And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did. (Cheers, applause.)”


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