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Obama announces actions on renewable energy

Obama announces actions on renewable energy

GOING GREEN:Joseph Roth checks the installation of South Florida’s largest solar panel array atop the future IKEA store in Miami, Wednesday, April 16. Photo: Associated Press/J Pat Carter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama on Friday will announce executive orders to increase the use of solar panels, boost energy efficiency in federal buildings and train more people to work in the renewable energy field, the White House said.

The president, who will make the announcement during a visit to Walmart in Mountain View, California, will also highlight commitments by corporations to lift solar generation at their facilities. Walmart, Apple Inc, Yahoo Inc, Google Inc and Ikea were among the companies making such commitments.

Several financial institutions, including Citigroup Inc and Goldman Sachs Group Inc, were announcing new plans for “large scale investment and innovative programs” to develop solar and renewable energy installations, the White House said.

Obama’s executive actions would support efforts at community colleges so that 50,000 workers would join the solar industry by 2020, it said.

Another initiative would press for $2 billion in energy efficiency upgrades for federal buildings over the next three years, building on another $2 billion commitment from 2011.

Actions to strengthen building codes were also part of the mix.

“Investing in solar and efficiency makes sense to reduce our carbon emissions, but also for our pocketbooks and for our economy,” said Dan Utech, an energy adviser to Obama, during a conference call on Monday to preview Obama’s announcement.

He said the U.S. solar energy industry had expanded dramatically under Obama’s watch, with installations increasing to an amount enough to power more than 2 million homes.

“So momentum is increasing,” Utech said. “Since President Obama took office we’ve increased production from U.S. solar electricity more than tenfold, and in the last year, U.S. production of electricity from solar energy was double what it was just two years ago.”

An Obama spokesman also announced the completion of a project to install solar panels at the White House itself. The panels were American-made and part of an energy “retrofit” for the building that would improve its energy efficiency.

“The project, which helps demonstrate that historic buildings can incorporate solar energy and energy efficiency upgrades, is estimated to pay for itself in energy savings over the next eight years,” spokesman Matt Lehrich said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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