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BCSE In The News

U.S. government embarks on plan for massive energy and water use cuts in federal facilities

By Barbara Vergetis Lundin, FierceEnergy
Published: March 24, 2015

Earlier this week, President Obama signed an Executive Order to reduce carbon pollution (40 percent from 2008 levels by 2025) from the federal government's operations by encouraging increased use of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The Executive Order calls for massive reductions in energy and water use in federal buildings and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from federal fleets.

Specifically, the Executive Order directs Federal agencies to ensure that 25 percent of their total energy (electric and thermal) consumption is from clean energy sources by 2025; reduce energy use in Federal buildings by 2.5 percent per year (from a 2015 baseline) through 2025; reduce per-mile GHG emissions from Federal fleets by 30 percent (from a 2014 baseline) by 2025; and reduce water intensity in Federal buildings by 2 percent per year (from a 2015 baseline) through 2025.

As the single largest energy consumer in the United States, this could potentially, over the next 10 years, save taxpayers an estimate $18 billion in avoided energy costs and reduce GHG emissions by 40 percent, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.

"The new Executive Order builds on significant progress that the Obama administration already has achieved -- a 17 percent reduction in GHG emissions and a reduction in energy use of 12 percent in only six years -- with a sizeable benefit to Americans in the form of a $1.8 billion reduction in the country's energy bill," said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy.

More and more federal agencies are exploring the use biomass thermal energy such as pellet heat, which utilizes wood pellets to heat buildings.

For example, in late 2014, the Ketchikan Federal Building in Ketchikan, Alaska, became the first federal building managed by GSA with a pellet boiler. And, in a February 2015 letter, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) requested that GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini's agency reconsider its procurement policies that limit federal facilities' use of biomass for heating.

The President is also seeking commitments from suppliers to cut their own GHG emissions, and a new Federal Supplier Greenhouse Gas Management Scorecard has been released to track and disclose the self-reported emissions of all major Federal suppliers.

"Since the Federal Government is the single largest consumer of energy in the nation, this enhanced commitment by the federal government to reduced emissions across the supply chain will have a large impact," said Lisa Jacobson, president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE). "The new commitments have international implications as well and will help support the United States' commitment to cut net GHG emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, which President Obama first announced as part of the bilateral agreement with China in November 2014."

According to BCSE's Sustainable Energy in America Factbook 2015 edition, the energy productivity of the U.S. economy has increased by 11 percent from 2007 to 2014 due, in large part, to policies and investment in energy efficiency.

Not everyone is lauding the President's Executive Order.

"…his administration needs to get serious about the federal government's much bigger carbon problem -- fueling the climate crisis by giving away our coal, oil, and gas from federal lands and waters," said Kelly Mitchell, Greenpeace climate and energy campaign director. "President Obama and Interior Secretary Jewell can take immediate steps that would have a real impact: rejecting Shell's plans to drill for oil in the Arctic and putting a moratorium on the sale of federal coal. We also need a comprehensive plan to address the broader problems of federal fossil fuels and climate change, but our land, water, and climate are threatened by fossil fuel companies and outdated federal rules right now, and these are two immediate steps the Obama administration could take."

Greenpeace has called upon the Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to upgrade BOEM's environmental impact analysis of Shell's Arctic leases by making the basic analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the burning of the oil produced at the lease sites.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell did address these issues earlier this week in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) during which she called for "an honest and open conversation" about the federal coal program and climate change.