Energy

Obama wants agencies to push the Green Button

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The White House's announcement that it will extend a presidential memorandum asking federal agencies to wring $2 billion in energy savings from their operations in a two-year period also calls on three of those agencies to figure out how best to incorporate a publicly available energy-use data standard.

On Dec. 5, President Barack Obama ordered federal agencies to increase their use of renewable energy to 20 percent of total consumption by 2020. As part of the initiative, agencies were instructed to use public Green Button data standards in their energy management practices.

Green Button is a technical standard developed in a public/private collaboration among energy providers and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The voluntary program is aimed at providing customers with a detailed look at their electricity usage via a uniform download from utility providers' sites via Web or smart phone.

U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer Nick Sinai said that as of Dec. 3, 48 utility and electric companies serving more than 59 million homes and businesses across the U.S. had committed to giving their customers access to data through Green Button. Almost 42 million households and businesses are using data accessed through Green Button to help manage their energy use, he added in a Dec. 5 post on the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy blog co-written by Matt Theall, a presidential innovation fellow at the Energy Department.

According to Green Button's website, detailed utility meter information can be particularly valuable in managing multi-building campuses, different floors in the same building and different tenants' space in the same building. Meter information can also show specific applications of energy within a building, such as lighting, heating and cooling.

The president's memo tasked DOE, the General Services Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency with creating and initiating a strategy for a Green Button pilot data exchange program at federal facilities within 120 days.

GSA officials did not have an immediate comment on the trial's details and deferred to the White House's statement.

Sinai and Theall said that based on the outcome of that pilot project, GSA, DOE and EPA will issue guidance for other facilities to use the data standard and incorporate reporting, data analytics and automation processes in consultation with their local utilities. The goal would be to enter data into EPA's Energy Star Portfolio Manager to benchmark and reduce energy costs and use across the government.

Data center savings

In recent months, several federal agencies have explored the possibility of achieving energy savings through data center optimization, but sources say a hitch in a first-of-its-kind deal between Lockheed Martin and DOE continues to slow such efforts.

Early this year, the Office of Management and Budget placed a hold on a $70 million energy savings performance contract (ESPC) between Lockheed Martin and DOE that would have paid for itself through savings achieved over six years by optimizing two of the department's data centers, as reported by FCW.

In July, U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel testified before Congress that OMB had no role in approving ESPCs, and a DOE official testified the same day that the matter was "now a DOE decision," leading many to speculate that DOE had capitulated to OMB. Thus far, DOE has held off on finalizing the contract despite pressure from Congress, a decision numerous industry officials say has had a chilling effect on the use of ESPCs in data center consolidation.

NASA, the Transportation Department, GSA, the Army and the Navy are all at varying stages of selecting companies for data center optimization efforts.

About the Authors

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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