Measuring green

Agencies turn to service-level agreements and other forms of performance contracting to achieve new energy efficiency and electronics stewardship goals

5 energy models

White House officials this month recognized five energy management teams from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior and Justice departments for managing energy use in their facilities and operations. The teams saved a total of $133 million in a year and about 4.6 trillion Btus, which is equivalent to the energy use of about 50,000 homes. The Presidential Awards for Leadership in Federal Energy Management support the Bush administration’s goals for energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in the federal government.

Here are the teams and their accomplishments.

DOD’s Air Force Senior Focus Group on Energy

By making efficient use of energy and sustainable practices a part of every decision, the Senior Focus Group on Energy saved the Air Force $100 million and more than 3.3 trillion Btus, enough to supply the energy needs of a city the size of Boulder, Colo., for a year.

DOE and EPA’s Laboratories for the 21st Century

Labs21, a public/private partnership, tries to improve the energy and environmental performance of laboratories, which use five to 10 times more energy than office buildings. Eighteen partners reduced their combined annual energy use by 533 billion Btus, equivalent to the average annual electricity use of about 14,500 households.

The partners also avoided emissions of nearly 218 million pounds of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to removing 21,000 cars from the road.

DHS’ Energy Management Committee

DHS made stewardship of energy resources part of standard practices and procedures for nine major components.

The Energy Management Committee published a comprehensive Master Energy Plan 2006-2015, which establishes a strategic direction for DHS’ facility energy management activities.

The plan calls for tracking the performance of its component agencies by measuring five major factors on a quarterly basis. In 2006, DHS decreased its energy use by 18 percent from 2003 levels.

Interior’s Bureau of Land Management Energy Efficiency Team

Interior’s Bureau of Land Management comprises numerous small facilities in remote areas of the country that individually consume relatively small amounts of energy, but taken together, they add up. In partnership with DOE and Johnson Controls, BLM tailored energy savings performance contracts to meet its needs and those of other federal agencies with small, remote facilities. Under those contracts, 105 sites are receiving $4.9 million of energy-efficiency improvements that guarantee an annual savings of about $400,000 and 20 billion Btus, which is equal to the energy used by 285 households.

Justice’s Federal Bureau of Prisons

The Federal Bureau of Prisons invested $3.5 million to install Justice’s first wind turbine and photovoltaic array at the Federal Correctional Complex in Victorville, Calif., which is saving $350,000 in annual energy costs and about 1.9 million kilowatt-hours annually.

The bureau plans to replicate this environmental solution at the 98 remaining institutions within six years.

— Mary Mosquera

How green is your agency?

The Office of Management and Budget distributed a survey and memo Nov. 1 to assess how agencies are complying with Presidential Executive Order 13423 and environmental statutes. OMB wants to know about agencies’ efforts to buy green products, save energy and become better stewards of electronics.

OMB asked agencies to describe their plans and procedures for buying energy- efficient and EnergyStar products, standby power devices, and bio-based and environmentally preferred products and services. Survey responses are due by March 14.

Agencies also must show how they are managing changes in business procedures by:

*Conducting energy awareness training for employees.

*Incorporating green purchasing requirements into specifications and contracts.

*Establishing metrics to measure progress toward green-purchasing goals.
*Revising enterprise asset management systems to reflect the use of green products.

OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy must report to Congress every two years on agencies’ efforts to make environmentally sound purchases. The presidential executive order requires the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive to report every two years on agencies’ progress in complying with the order.

Find a link to OMB’s memo on FCW.com’s Download.

— Mary Mosquera

The largest solar power plant in the United States belongs to the Defense Department. Nellis Air Force Base, which is northeast of Las Vegas, uses an innovative leasing program to provide solar arrays that will produce 15 megawatts of power when the plant is completed in December.

The plant’s 70,000 solar panels, installed on 140 acres of unused land at the base, are expected to save Nellis $1 million a year on its electricity bill.

The Air Force and other federal agencies are on their way to becoming stewards of the environment by adding provisions for energy savings and electronics stewardship to federal contracts. The Environmental Protection Agency helps agencies devise contract language to acquire environmentally friendly computer hardware that has been registered under the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) standard.

The Executive Office of the President has also made contracts a focus of its leadership on energy savings and electronics stewardship.

And the Office of Management and Budget is involved in an effort to include the EPEAT standard in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).

Agencies say they expect to use service-level agreements as the primary contractual means of tracking energy savings and electronics stewardship. With those contracts, payments hinge on the contractor meeting specific performance metrics.

But as government and industry officials try to figure out how to measure energy efficiency in a data center, for example, agencies have other performance contracting options available to them.

In August, the Council on Environmental Quality directed agencies to expand their use of energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) and utility energy service contracts (UESCs), which are available through the Energy Department’s Federal Energy Management Program.

Agencies must spend about 20 percent of their annual energy budgets on energy efficiency to meet the goals set by President Bush’s Jan. 24 environmental executive order and other statutes, said James Connaughton, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality. Connaughton issued a memo in August advising agencies to direct 10 percent of their annual energy expenditures into those energy savings contracting programs.

The president’s environmental executive order and the instructions that support it reflect a sense of urgency about safeguarding the environment, said David Rodgers, DOE’s deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency.

“It’s a momentum that we need to nurture, strengthen and focus,” Rodgers said.

The contracting programs available through DOE are simple and flexible and don’t require agencies to spend money to achieve energy savings, Rodgers said. Under an ESPC, an energy services company or a utility company provides the upfront investment for improving energy efficiency.

The company could invest in more efficient heating and cooling or lighting systems, for example. The agency would reimburse the energy company for its investment with the agency’s savings on electricity costs.

“Because of the way the contract is structured, the agency is guaranteed to never pay more than the savings that are accrued,” Rodgers said.

Those contracts can have 25-year terms, but most are for less.

Typically, after 10 or 15 years, the agency has reimbursed the energy company and gets to keep all future savings from the contract.

Regardless of the type of energy savings technology an agency chooses to implement, it can pay for it with an ESPC if that technology will dramatically lower an agency’s utility bill, Rodgers said.

Utility companies are interested in those contracts because they struggle to meet a growing demand for electricity to operate data centers. For example, DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory wants to build a data center to house new supercomputer. The local utility company said it cannot provide the electricity the data center needs, no matter what the lab is willing to pay. The company doesn’t have the transmission lines or the power-generation capacity to meet the lab’s needs. The only way the lab can operate its supercomputer is by switching to highly efficient technologies that draw less power.

Such dilemmas influenced DOE’s decision in September to join the Green Grid, a consortium of more than 100 information technology companies interested in developing more energy-efficient data-center technologies and practices. Both are areas in which data-center officials face a steep learning curve, Rodgers said.

“A data-center manager is not necessarily an energy manager,” Rodgers said. Data-center managers typically worry about avoiding downtime and achieving faster processing times. “We have to show them how [energy inefficiency] affects their bottom line.”

More than 50 percent of energy use in data centers is for heating and cooling — and a potential source of savings. “It’s likely that you’re keeping the computers too cold and your people are suffering because of it,” Rodgers said.

Utilities and energy companies affiliated with DOE’s performance contracts can help agencies discover where they might be wasting energy and identify new technologies or practices that could help them use energy more efficiently. In 2006, DOE helped agencies governmentwide write ESPCs and UESCs worth $300 million. DOE is using those types of contracts at 60 of its sites.

In addition to helping agencies write ESPCs, DOE also encourages agencies to use its super ESPC, which lists energy companies and utilities nationwide that DOE competitively selected.

Agencies that use DOE’s interagency contract can get an energy savings program in place in 90 to 120 days, Rodgers said. DOE recently issued a solicitation to recompete its super ESPC.

Contracts and their provisions play a huge role in ensuring that federal agencies can meet the requirements of the president’s executive order, said Holly Elwood, EPA’s headquarters lead for the EPEAT program. The executive order includes provisions that require agencies to use electronic products that meet EPEAT standards.


EPEAT-compliant products include desktop computers, laptop PCs and computer monitors. In the next two years, Elwood said, additional products that will meet the EPEAT standard will include imaging equipment, TVs, servers, personal digital assistants and cell phones.

Agencies are starting to write requests for proposals and contracts that specify EPEAT-registered products. For example, NASA recently revised its IT specifications to ensure that any desktop computer, laptop PC or computer monitor purchased through its Outsourcing Desktop Initiative contract is EPEAT-registered.

ODIN is a multiple-award contract with a ceiling of $100 million and a term that ends in 2010.

“That immediately impacted ODIN and everything bought through ODIN,” Elwood said.

Any agency can buy EPEAT-registered products through various governmentwide agency contracts, such as the General Services Administration’s Alliant, NASA’s Solutions for Enterprisewide Procurement IV and the National Institutes of Health’s Electronic Commodity Store III. However, agencies must specify in their orders that they want EPEAT-registered products, Elwood said. NASA and GSA required their GWAC vendors to demonstrate that they could provide such products. But because vendors are not required to provide only EPEAT-registered products, buyers must still specify in their orders that they want such products.

Despite the contracting help that is available to agencies, green computing is still a high hurdle, Elwood said. The biggest hurdle is getting procurement officials to change their thinkin aid.

Many contracting officers assume that green computing means spending more money, settling for lower performance or choosing from a narrow selection of options. Those assumptions are no longer true, she said.

Once EPEAT standards become part of the FAR, it will be difficult for agencies to avoid such purchases, Elwood said. Some federal buyers still have the attitude, “‘If it’s not in the FAR, I’m not interested. When it gets in the FAR, call me,’” she said. 

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