President Barack Obama speaks about energy during a visit to a Wal-Mart store in Mountain View, California. Walmart will double by 2020 the number of on-site solar energy projects at its U.S. outlets and distribution centers, the company announced
Standing beneath the glare of fluorescent lights inside a Walmart store, President Obama on Friday rolled out his plan for sweeping energy reform, an ambitious effort to convert more businesses, homes and government building to solar power. Obama’s energy initiative — an executive action that calls for investments in more solar energy jobs, upgrading homes and buildings to be more efficient, and partnerships with the housing and tech industries — and aims to move the country away from foreign oil dependency while creating more jobs in the renewable energy sector. Despite a spotty record on labor issues, Walmart has been what many experts consider a pioneer in energy efficiency and renewable energy. It’s one of at least 10 private companies that, as part of Obama’s plan, have agreed to double-down on their efforts to convert more of their energy to renewable sources. Dozens of affordable housing organizations, retailers, home builders and tech companies have also signed on to the presidents plan with their own plans to invest in solar, helping the environment and lowering their electricity bills.
FACT: Since President Obama took office, America has increased its electricity generation from solar—more than 10-fold.
Arkansas-based Walmart, an early investor in the solar industry, pledged on Friday it will double the number of solar energy projects at its stores and distribution centers by 2020. By the end of last year, the retail giant had 335 renewable energy projects, with solar making up about 6 percent of those. The company expects the additional solar projects will save $1 billion per year in energy costs. “It’s the right thing to do because when you save that money you can pass that money back to consumers in the form of lower prices, or you can create more jobs,” Obama said. The executive order, an 11-page document released Friday morning, involves more than 300 private and public sector commitments to cut carbon emissions, an additional $2 billion in energy efficiency investments in federal buildings over three years, new efficiency standards for appliances and training programs at community colleges across the country that will assist 50,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020.
The announcement was applauded by several environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The Mountain View store in which Obama spoke now gets 14.5 percent of its energy from solar systems built and installed by SolarCity, based in San Mateo and one of Walmart’s biggest solar vendors. SolarCity says its projects with Walmart alone have created an estimated 9,000 construction jobs in the United States, and SolarCity itself has created an additional 5,000 permanent American jobs since it did its first project with Walmart in 2010. A few Silicon Valley tech leaders have also signed onto Obama’s energy plan. Apple is building a 2.8 million square-foot headquarters that will also run entirely on renewables, including a rooftop solar system, and has committed to powering all its facilities with green; Yahoo announced it will add a solar installation to their Sunnyvale headquarters by early 2015; and Google announced on Friday a $1 million prize to develop the next generation of power inverters, or cooler-size boxes that help homes run on solar panels.