This week President Obama unveiled his “Climate Action Plan” in a speech at Georgetown University. The plan (which we previewed in last week’s news round-up) incorporates policies like new energy efficiency standards, increased advanced energy deployment on public lands, and performance standards for new and existing power plants. The plan moves the United States “toward a smarter energy future” and will “make the U.S. more of a leader in advanced energy, which is a $1 trillion global market opportunity for American companies and American workers,” AEE’s CEO Graham Richard said.
In his address, the President singled out Walmart as a company using advanced energy to cut carbon emissions and increase profits. “Would the biggest company, the biggest retailer in America – would they really do that if it weren’t good for business, if it weren’t good for their shareholders?” the President asked. In response, Walmart CEO Mike Duke said this: “Investing in renewable energy and energy conservation are good for business, good for communities and good for the environment. When we use less energy, that’s less energy we have to buy, and that means less waste and more savings for our customers.” Just this week, Walmart finished installing solar panels on 10 locations in Maryland, which will provide between 5 and 20 percent of each location’s electricity use.
Another major American company, MidAmerican Energy Holdings, spent this week announcing new investments in wind and solar projects. The company, which is run by Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett's conglomerate holding company, will invest $700 million in the Antelope Valley Solar Project in California. The 579 MW project is slated to go online in 2015.
In what the Sioux City Journal has termed “a gust of economic development dollars,” MidAmerican Energy Holdings will also add 656 new wind turbines to Iowa’s already substantial wind energy market. The project, which is expected to add up to 1,050 megawatts of generating capacity, is also slated to go online in 2015.
Last week, the AEE-MIT Utility and Advanced Energy Executive Forum traveled to San Antonio to spur utilities’ adoption of advanced energy technologies. This week, another Texas city announced a major investment in renewable energy. Houston plans to purchase $2 million in renewable power over two years, enough to meet roughly half the city’s electric load. The city is buying the power from Reliant Energy, a subsidiary of NRG Energy, which participated in the San Antonio forum. “Houston is already known as the energy capital of the world, but we are committed to becoming the alternative energy capital of the world as well,” Houston Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement.
Finally, this week the New York Times took an in-depth look at Solazyme, an algae-based biofuels company. The Times dug into the challenge of advanced energy financing, especially where production on a large scale is needed to be competitive, as it is in liquid fuels. Solazyme’s answer has been to diversify into non-energy products—manufacturing algae oil-based cosmetics and food products, which have far higher profit margins.
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