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President Barack Obama has issued a presidential memorandum directing the U.S. federal government to pursue a goal of deriving 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The document also instructs all federal agencies to take specific steps to better manage building performance, enhance energy efficiency and reduce energy waste.

The missive represents a follow-through on the president's plan to counter climate change, announced in June. It directs agencies to achieve the renewable energy consumption target through a number of approved actions. The actions, in order of priority, are the following:
  1. Installing agency-funded renewable energy on-site at federal facilities and retain renewable energy certificates;
  2. Contracting for energy that includes the installation of a renewable energy project on-site at a federal facility or off-site and the retention of renewable energy certificates for the term of the contract;
  3. Purchasing electricity and corresponding renewable energy certificates; and
  4. Purchasing renewable energy certificates.
The memorandum sets a number of interim targets for renewable energy usage up to the ultimate 20% by 2020 goal. The first of these is a 10% target for 2015.

In terms of energy efficiency, the document instructs federal agencies to take a number of measures, such as installing building energy and water meters and publicly disclosing annual benchmark energy performance data through the Department of Energy Web-based tracking system.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) received Obama's memorandum enthusiastically.

"This is a landmark moment in our nation’s history," says Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO, in a statement. "We applaud President Obama for standing firm and following through on a key commitment he made as part of his Climate Action Plan. Moving forward, we also encourage the administration to develop a modern procurement process that allows solar to compete evenly with fossil fuels. Federal agencies should have the authority to adopt long-term power purchase agreements."

The document does offer some wiggle room in that actions are to be taken where practical, economical and technically feasible.

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