WASHINGTON — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Apple, Yahoo and Home Depot are among 300 businesses, local and state governments that have pledged to expand their use of solar energy technology by 2020, President Obama said Friday while standing inside a Wal-Mart store in Northern California.
Obama revealed their pledge as he touted Wal-Mart’s new commitment to double the number of on-site solar energy projects at its U.S. stores, Sam’s Clubs and distribution centers as part of a broader announcement he made to upgrade energy use in federal buildings. Obama made the visit to the solar-powered Wal-Mart store in Mountain View, Calif., to unveil a new executive order generating an additional $2 billion in federal funding to increase the use of solar panels in federal buildings over the next three years, in addition to an earlier commitment of $2 billion in 2011.
“We know that making buildings more efficient is one of the easiest, cheapest ways to create jobs, save money and cut down on harmful pollution that causes climate change,” Obama said. “It can save our businesses tens of billions of dollars a year on their energy bills. Then they can use money to grow and hire more folks. At Wal-Mart, you’ve committed to reducing energy consumption across 850 million square feet of space. That’s a lot. That’s enough to cover more than half of the city of San Francisco.”
Obama also praised General Motors for pledging to improve energy efficiency in 31 plants, as well as cities such as Little Rock, Ark., Kansas City, Mo., and Detroit, which have all replaced regular street lights with more efficient LEDs.
But Obama singled out Wal-Mart for its leadership in the energy efficiency area.
“Wal-Mart has already got the most installed on-site solar capacity of any company in America,” he said. “And now you’ve announced plans to double that capacity, and it’s all part of your goal to buy or produce 7 billion kilowatt hours of renewable energy by 2020 — something that could save Wal-Mart $1 billion a year in energy costs.”
Bill Simon, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart U.S., said, “We share the President’s commitment to a sustainable energy future and applaud his willingness to partner with business on this important issue. We know from experience that investing in energy innovation allows us to save money, reduce carbon pollution and create jobs.”
Wal-Mart also said it signed on to the Energy Department’s Better Building Initiative, committing to reduce the energy use in its buildings by 20 percent by 2020.
Obama, who launched the Better Business Initiative three years ago, said Friday that 190 businesses and organizations have signed on.
“On average, they’re on track to meet their goal — cutting energy use by 2.5 percent every single year,” Obama said. “Together, they’ve already saved $300 million in energy costs. So we know it works.”