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Obama Tells Government To Ramp Up Its Renewable Energy Use

This post was updated at 1:30 p.m. ET

President Obama says the U.S. government "must lead by example" when it comes to safeguarding the environment, so he's ordering federal agencies to use more clean energy.

Under a presidential memorandum out Thursday, each agency would have until 2020 to get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable supplies.

"Government agencies currently get less than 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind," NPR's Richard Harris reports. He adds that:

"The executive order tells agencies they should aim for doubling that, to 20 percent, by the year 2020. Agencies are supposed to build their own facilities when they can, or buy clean energy from wind farms and solar facilities."

The memo also directs federal agencies to increase energy efficiency in its buildings and its power management systems.

Federal agencies face several milestones along the way to achieving the 20 percent goal, according to the White House memo. Here are the amounts of renewable energy they're required to use in the years leading up to 2020:

  • 2015: At least 10 percent
  • 2016, 2017: At least 15 percent
  • 2018, 2019: At least 17.5 percent

Several potential exemptions are outlined in the memo, including a passage that allows the director of national intelligence to exempt activities in order to protect intelligence sources. Other exemptions cite possible concerns over national security and classified information.

Richard notes that the federal government is just the latest entity to establish goals for itself:

"Many states already have a goal to get about 20 percent of their electricity from renewable supplies, and scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab who keep tabs on this say states are on track to meet those goals."

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