The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
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President Obama Called on to Power Federal Buildings With Solar

Plan Would Help U.S. Meet Climate Targets, Support Wildlife-friendly Energy


The Center for Biological Diversity today urged President Obama to lead by example in the transition to a clean, just energy economy by installing solar panels on all federal government buildings.

"We're already on track to fall short of global climate targets -- before the Paris Agreement even goes into effect," said Chad Tudenggongbu, senior renewable energy campaigner at the Center. "That failure isn't just a policy problem; the effects can be felt today, in increasingly frequent and devastating storms, extreme drought and deadly floods. The federal government must lead the way toward a clean and just energy economy by keeping fossil fuels in the ground and advancing solutions like rooftop solar."

A new study published in Nature shows that, assuming implementation of all current, active policies (including the president's centerpiece Clean Power Plan), the United States will fall short of its pollution-cutting pledge under the Paris Agreement by 551 million to 1.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions in 2025. And even if the US were to strengthen the Clean Power Plan and adopt a host of other proposed and currently voluntary measures, the nation would still likely fall short of its commitment under all but the most optimistic scenarios.

Federal agencies currently own or lease 360,000 buildings with a total footprint of more than 1.2 billion square feet of space. If solar panels are installed on all compatible federal buildings, and incompatible buildings use energy from local distributed-solar projects, the buildings of federal agencies could generate more than 24 billion kilowatt hours of solar energy annually, enough to power more than 1.8 million American homes for a year. In terms of emissions reduction, this would eliminate more than 16.8 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually, equivalent to the annual emissions from five coal-fired power plants.

"While President Obama has shown leadership so far in advancing renewable energy, it's time for him to walk the talk and power our government with solar energy," said Tudenggongbu. "Replacing fossil fuels with cleaner, sustainable and wildlife-friendly energy is not a matter of choice but rather a matter of time. The president's investment in distributed-solar energy can help drive energy solutions that are better for the environment, communities and the economy."

President Obama's previous executive orders on renewable energy have taken an all-of-the-above strategy, giving agencies just as much credit for investing in environmentally damaging sources such as biomass -- which can emit nearly 50 percent more CO2 than coal -- as solar energy. The Center's letter to the president today urges him to account for the vastly different life-cycle carbon and environmental footprints of renewable energy technologies by calling for solar panels on all compatible federal buildings. Where this is not feasible, the federal agency should be directed to invest in local distributed-solar projects.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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