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Driving Development of Clean Energy

In 2013, the President announced a bold new goal for the federal government to consume 20% of its power from renewable sources by 2020 -- and federal agencies are already stepping up to this challenge in a big way.

Since the President took office, we have made unprecedented progress transforming America into a clean energy economy built to last. The amount of electricity we get from the wind has tripled, and solar electricity production has increased by tenfold.

The Administration has permitted more than 50 utility-scale renewable energy projects on public lands, enough to power nearly 5 million homes and support more than 20,000 construction and operations jobs. The Departments of Energy and Interior are also moving forward on infrastructure projects that will bring clean sources of power online and improve the resilience of our electricity system.

Today, the Department of Energy finalized a Presidential Permit for the Champlain Hudson Power Express, a transmission line that will deliver renewable hydropower from Quebec to meet New York City's growing energy demand. The project developers estimate the 1,000-megawatt transmission line will save consumers $650 million each year and cut carbon pollution 2.2 million metric tons.

And we're taking action to drive reliable, affordable, and sustainable hydropower at home. Since the President took office, DOE has provided awards to support more than 30 hydropower projects.

President Obama firmly believes that the federal government should lead by example. That is why he has set aggressive targets for federal agencies to reduce their energy and water use, and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, last year the President announced a bold new goal for the federal government to consume 20% of its power from renewable sources by 2020 – and federal agencies are already stepping up to this challenge in a big way.

Last month, the General Services Administration (GSA), which manages thousands of federal buildings and is one of the country’s largest consumers of power, signed a contract to purchase 140 megawatts (MW) of wind power from a project that will be located in Illinois. The generation from this project will not only meet GSA's 20% renewable energy goal, but also its greenhouse gas reduction goals. The project is a unique partnership between a Native American tribal authority and commercial wind developer that will be built solely for federal power demand. GSA solicited bids from private industry for utility-scale renewable energy that is at or below the price of traditional sources of power, and the result is a renewable energy project that is not just cost competitive, but lower than grid prices.
Just last week, the Department of the Navy also made a big step toward its goal of one gigawatt of renewable energy with the announcement of a request for proposals from the Department of Energy Western Area Power Administration. The project will provide power to 14 Navy installations in California and will be the largest renewable energy purchase by a Department of Defense entity. 
Federal agencies are also taking the lead in deploying renewable energy onsite. The USDA recently announced a 1.4 MW solar array for its Beltsville, Maryland facility that will be built by a small business, and when constructed will produce enough solar energy to power its facility during the day. At Fort Drum Army Base, which supports mobilization and training of 30,000 troops, a 60 MW biomass generation facility will produce 100 percent of the installation’s electricity requirements and export power to back to the grid. And later this month, the GSA will hold an industry day to engage the solar industry about an aggregated power purchase in the National Capital Region as part of the Capital Solar Challenge, which aims to deploy up to 25 MW of solar power for federal buildings across Washington, D.C.
The federal government isn’t the only one taking this approach. All over the country, schools and universities, Fortune 500 companies, and small- and medium-sized businesses are purchasing power that is produced locally and built directly in response to their demand. 
By moving toward this model of purchasing newly developed utility-scale renewable energy, as well as deploying renewable energy onsite at agency facilities, the federal government is reducing its carbon footprint and saving money at the same time. As the federal government continues to meet the President’s ambitious goals, we will help lead the country toward a clean energy future.

Kate Brandt is the Federal Environmental Executive at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Dan Utech is the Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.