Federal agencies unveil sustainability plans to cut GHGs 28%, save $10 billion in energy costs

Our guest blogger is CAP’s Ben Kaldunski.

A large step forward for federal sustainability came this month as the White House released its Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans for nearly every Federal agency.  This is the first time that all the agencies have submitted plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

President Obama signed Executive Order #13514, “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance” a year ago, requiring each of the 35 federal agencies to inventory their greenhouse gas emissions; set a reductions target; and build a plan to meet that target over the coming years.  Building on this initiative, President Obama then announced in January 2010 that the Federal Government would work to cut its overall emissions of global warming pollution by 28 percent by 2020.  Once accomplished, this will be no small energy saving feat:

Achieving the Federal GHG pollution reduction target will reduce Federal energy use by the equivalent of 646 trillion BTUs, equal to 205 million barrels of oil, and taking 17 million cars off the road for one year.  This is also equivalent to a cumulative total of $8 to $11 billion in avoided energy costs through 2020. [Emphasis added]

The nation’s largest energy consumer and with over 500,000 buildings, 600,000 vehicles, 1.8 million employees, and annual purchases exceeding $500 billion per year, the Federal government can play a major role in America’s transition to a clean energy economy.  It will also send a signal to other economic players that cutting emissions can cut costs and stimulate growth, too.

From utilizing cool roofs to greening the Air Force, the Feds have already made creative improvements in environmental sustainability.  Now, for the first time, we get a glimpse of how each agency plans to both achieve their stated targets while contributing to the joint goal; their actions will be monitored and aggregated so that total cost savings and emissions reductions can be quantified.  Agencies were instructed to achieve their targets by increasing energy efficiency, reducing fleet petroleum consumption, conserving water, reducing waste, supporting sustainable communities, and leveraging their purchasing power to promote environmentally-responsible products and technologies.

Reduced emissions will produce tangible costs savings and environmental benefits, but they will also lead to improved national security and military effectiveness as well.  The Department of Defense is a strong proponent of pursuing sustainability related projects that will protect American soldiers by reducing their dependence on vulnerable energy supply chains and reigning in budgets at home.  Nellis Air Force Base, for example, installed “the largest solar electric plant of its kind in the Western hemisphere” in 2007 and has plans to expand the 14.2 megawatt array in the future.  The DoD’s sustainability plan aims to reduce GHG emissions 34% by 2020 while decreasing energy intensity at its’ facilities 3% each year from 2006-2015 and 1.5% from 2016-2020.  Eighteen percent of all energy consumed within DoD facilities will come from renewable sources by 2020.  It will use renewables to provide 18.3% of its energy needs including the use of methance from ten landfill gas capture facilities.

Other large Federal agencies like the Department of Transportation will cut emissions by reducing employee travel by implementing advanced telecommunications systems and remote office locations.  According to the DoT’s sustainability plan, this will reduce travel emissions by at least 10% by 2020.  DoT will also focus on improving the efficiency of its’ fleet by replacing aging cars and trucks with hybrids and electric vehicles.  The Department of Energy intends to comply with the baseline targets of the executive order while investing in efficiency measures and infrastructure improvements based on carbon intensity.  DoE serves a crucial role as incubator for research and development in advanced energy technologies likeadvanced batteries, cogeneration technologies and advanced biofuels from woody biomass and algae.  This chart shows highlights of several agencies’ sustanability plans.

Agency Highlights

Sustainability Goals

Department of Defense

  • Reduce GHG’s 34% from 2008 to 2020
  • Reduce facility energy intensity by 3% each year from 2006 through 2015, and by 1.5% per year from 2016 through 2020
  • 18.3% of all energy consumed within DoD facilities will come from renewable sources by 2020
  • Use of petroleum products by non-tactical vehicle fleets will decrease 2% annually, relative to 2005 levels, for a total 30% reduction by 2020
  • Ten landfill gas capture facilities will become operational by 2020 for the production, capture and use of methane as an energy source

Department of Transportation

  • Reduce scope 1 & 2 emissions 12.3% by 2020, or 75.5 metric tons of CO2
  • Reduce scope 3 emissions by 11% by 2020
  • Employee travel emissions will decline 10% by 2020
  • 50% of DoT’s waste will be diverted from landfills resulting in a 50% reduction in landfill emissions associated with the agency’s solid waste stream

Department of Energy

  • Reduction scope 1 & 2 emissions 28% and scope 3 emissions 13% by 2020
  • Investment in efficiency measures and infrastructure improvements
  • Reduce the use of petroleum”based fuels in the agency’s transportation fleet
  • Support R&D of next generation energy technologies such as fuel cells, cogeneration, biomass, and advanced biofuels

US Postal Service

  • Reduce scope 1,2 and 3 emissions 20% by 2020
  • Reduce nationwide facility emissions 30% from 2003 levels by 2015
  • Reduce use of petroleum fuels in the vehicle fleet 15% from 2005 levels and increase use of alternative fuels 10% by 2015

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

  • Will reduce scope 1 and scope 2 emissions 47.4% by 2020
  • Will reduce scope 3 emissions 16.3% by 2020
  • Optimizing and updating the vehicle fleet to include hybrids and electric vehicles
  • Will pursue an Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) for the Robert C. Weaver building

These and others represent a government wide commitment to increasing energy efficiency in federal buildings, higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicle fleets, and the installation or purchase of electricity generated from renewable sources.  Meeting President Obama’s aggressive targets will stimulate demand and growth in the clean tech, sustainable building materials, and advanced vehicle industries that will benefit from new government contracts.

Such a coordinated interagency approach shows the Obama administration’s seriousness about achieving its emissions reductions goals, even as midterms approach and the political climate in Washington grows increasingly volatile with each next day.  Progress made at the federal level will serve as a guiding light for state and local government, as well as private business that stands to benefit from a renewed commitment to environmental stewardship.

To see a list of links to every Federal agency’s sustainability plans click here.

— Ben Kaldunski, CAP’s Energy Opportunity team.

One Response to Federal agencies unveil sustainability plans to cut GHGs 28%, save $10 billion in energy costs

  1. adelady says:

    I think one of the most important effects is just in that one statistic, 1.8 million employees. They represent a significantly larger number of households, 2.5 to 3 million households. Many of them will take the workplace ideas home. And they will also recognise good energy savings ideas when they see them elsewhere if they’ve already seen them work in another familiar environment.