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Before the Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives:

United States General Accounting Office:


For Release on Delivery Expected at 10:00 a.m. EST:

Wednesday, March 12, 2003:

Federal Energy Management:

Facility and Vehicle Energy Efficiency Issues:

Statement for the Record by Bernard L. Ungar, Director, Physical 

Infrastructure Issues 

James E. Wells, Director, Natural Resources and Environment Issues:


Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

We welcome the opportunity to provide testimony on energy conservation 

efforts in federal facilities and agencies’ use of alternative fuel 

vehicles. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), the federal 

government’s energy bills total approximately $4 billion annually. Our 

testimony provides an overview of the vast federal facilities 

inventory, describes laws and other authorities that pertain to energy 

conservation in facilities and use of alternative fuel vehicles, 

highlights some of the key federal efforts to promote energy efficient 

practices and building designs, describes some things that can be done 

to improve energy efficiency in facilities and related cost 

implications, and identifies some of the obstacles agencies face in 

improving energy efficiency in federal facilities. Our testimony also 

provides an update on agencies’ use of alternative fuel vehicles and is 

based on prior reports and ongoing work.

Constructing and operating buildings requires enormous amounts of 

energy, water, and materials and creates large amounts of waste. How 

agencies manage their facilities, along with the vehicles they use to 

accomplish their missions, has significant cost implications and 

greatly affects the environment. According to DOE, energy management is 

one of the most challenging tasks facing today’s federal facilities 

manager, and sound energy management includes using energy efficiently, 

ensuring reliable supplies, and reducing costs whenever possible. The 

federal role in energy conservation was also highlighted in the 

President’s National Energy Policy, in which the President directed 

heads of executive departments and agencies to “take appropriate 

actions to conserve energy use at their facilities to the maximum 

extent consistent with the effective discharge of public 



With approximately 3.3 billion feet of facility space and over one-half 

million automobiles, the federal government is the largest single 

energy consumer in the nation. Various laws, regulations, and executive 

memorandums direct federal facility managers to reduce energy 

consumption and environmental impacts of the buildings they manage. 

Agencies also must follow other requirements for the acquisition and 

use of alternative fuel vehicles, which use fuels like methanol, 

propane, and natural gas, to name a few. In constructing and renovating 

facilities, agencies have begun using “green” design approaches, which 

are intended to result in energy efficiency and minimal impact on the 

environment. Such approaches have been used at the White House, 

Pentagon, and the Zion National Park Visitor Center. Despite the 

possible benefits, some agencies believe they face obstacles in 

employing green practices in construction and renovation projects. 

These include key stakeholders--architects, engineers, agency staff--

who are not familiar with green approaches, higher initial costs of 

green projects, difficulty getting agency management buy-in, and 

difficulty quantifying the benefits of green facility designs. In 

addition to efforts to make federal facilities more energy efficient, 

the federal government has also attempted to reduce the nation’s 

consumption of petroleum fuels in transportation through the use of 

alternative fuel vehicles in the federal vehicle fleet.

Overview of Federal Facilities, Vehicles, and Related Energy Efficiency 


The federal facilities inventory contains a diverse portfolio of assets 

that are used for a wide variety of missions. According to the fiscal 

year 2001 financial statements of the U.S. government, the federal 

government’s real property assets--including land--are worth about $328 

billion. In terms of facilities, the latest available governmentwide 

data from GSA indicated that as of September 30, 2000, the federal 

government owned and leased approximately 3.3 billion square feet of 

building floor area worldwide.[Footnote 1] As shown in figure 1, the 

Department of Defense (DOD), U.S. Postal Service (USPS), General 

Services Administration (GSA), and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 

hold the majority of the owned facility space. Figure 1 also shows that 

DOD, the Department of State (State), GSA, and USPS lease the most 


Figure 1: Percentages of Federal Facility Space Owned and Leased 

Worldwide, by Agency:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

A set of federal laws, regulations, executive orders, and executive 

memorandums direct federal facility managers to reduce the energy and 

environmental impacts of the buildings they manage. In enacting the 

Federal Energy Management Improvement Act of 1988 (FEMIA),[Footnote 2] 

Congress recognized, among other things, that the federal government is 

the largest single energy consumer in the nation, and that the cost of 

meeting the federal government’s energy requirements is substantial. 

The purpose of FEMIA, as amended, is “to promote the conservation and 

the efficient use of energy and water and the use of renewable energy 

sources by the federal government.”[Footnote 3] FEMIA, as amended, sets 

forth energy performance requirements for federal buildings, 

establishes the use of life cycle methods and procedures for 

application of energy conservation measures, and establishes an 

interagency energy management task force to coordinate the activities 

of the federal government in promoting energy conservation.

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT) was intended to further enhance 

federal energy management practices.[Footnote 4] In this regard, it 

requires the GSA Administrator to hold biennial conference workshops in 

each of the federal regions on energy management, conservation, 

efficiency, and planning strategy; requires agencies to conduct energy 

management training; requires the establishment of energy audit teams 

to perform energy audits of federal facilities; and requires agencies 

to identify energy efficient products in carrying out their procurement 

and supply functions. Several executive orders[Footnote 5] direct 

agencies to employ green practices in facility and fleet management, 

and executive memorandums encourage agencies to use energy saving 

performance contracts and environmentally friendly landscaping 


In addition to facilities-related initiatives, EPACT establishes a 

minimum number of alternative fuel vehicles for federal agencies 

beginning in fiscal year 1993 and requires the Secretary of Energy to 

carry out an alterative fuel vehicle program. According to the most 

recently available data from GSA, the federal government operated 

596,114 vehicles in fiscal year 2001. Alternative fuels include 

ethanol, methanol, natural gas, propane, and electricity. Alternative 

fuel vehicles operate on these fuels, although some of them can operate 

on gasoline. In total, the Energy Information Administration estimated 

that the federal government operated 68,890 alternative fuel vehicles 

in 2002.

Federal Efforts to Promote Energy Conservation and Green Design 


The primary program for promoting energy efficiency in the federal 

government is DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). 

Established in 1973, FEMP works to reduce the energy cost and 

environmental impact of federal government practices by advancing 

energy efficiency and water conservation, promoting the use of 

distributed and renewable energy, and improving utility management 

decisions at federal sites. FEMP provides a range of services to 

federal agencies aimed at helping facility managers achieve greater 

energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness in areas such as new 

construction, building retrofits, equipment procurement, and utility 

management. FEMP also advises agencies on establishing partnerships 

with the private sector to improve energy efficiency, using innovative 

technologies, and addressing energy-related policy matters as they 

pertain to federal facilities. For example, one way that FEMP helps 

agencies become more energy efficient is through utility energy 

services contracts. In these contracts, the utility company typically 

arranges financing and constructs the necessary capital improvements to 

the agencies’ building systems. In return, the utility is repaid over 

the term of the contract from the cost savings generated by the newly 

installed, energy-efficient improvements. This allows agencies to 

become more energy efficient while minimizing the up-front costs of the 

capital improvements. According to DOE, since 1995 more than 45 

electric and gas utilities have provided project financing for energy 

and water efficiency upgrades at federal facilities, investing more 

than $600 million through these contracts.

As part of its central management responsibilities in federal real 

property, GSA encourages agencies to use green or sustainable design 

approaches in federal construction and renovation projects. The 

objectives of sustainability are to reduce consumption of nonrenewable 

resources, minimize waste and impact on the environment, optimize site 

potential, minimize nonrenewable energy consumption, use 

environmentally preferable products, protect and conserve water, 

enhance indoor environmental quality, and optimize operational and 

maintenance practices. The end result of a sustainable design is a 

healthier working environment that costs less to maintain over time 

than traditional methods and is better for the environment. To measure 

sustainability efforts, GSA and other agencies have begun using the 

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. The 

U.S. Green Building Council--a coalition of leaders from across the 

building industry working to promote buildings that are environmentally 

responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work--developed 

LEED to help apply principles of sustainable design and development to 

facilities projects. According to information from GSA, by using LEED, 

agencies can gauge the impact of design decisions on energy efficiency 

and other sustainability factors.

Examples of Agency Efforts to Apply Green Principles:

By using the principles of sustainable, green design, agencies are 

trying to improve energy efficiency, reduce life-cycle costs, and 

reduce environmental impacts in the design, construction, and operation 

of federal facilities. Some examples of facilities where these 

approaches have been applied are the White House, the Pentagon, and the 

Zion Canyon National Park Visitor Center.

* According to information from DOE, in 1993 a team of experts from 

several federal agencies and private organizations helped create a 

“greening plan” for the White House to be implemented as part of 

ongoing facility maintenance and operation. Measures taken included 

changes to the building envelope[Footnote 6] to reduce energy loss 

through the roof, windows, and walls; and modifications to the lighting 

systems to increase efficiency and maximize natural lighting. In 1999, 

DOE estimated that these and other efforts resulted in cost savings of 

approximately $300,000 annually through reductions in energy, water, 

landscaping, and waste removal costs. More recently, according to 

information from the Office of the Federal Environmental 

Executive,[Footnote 7] the White House installed its first-ever solar 

electric system in late 2002. This included putting solar panels on the 

roof of the complex’s primary maintenance building and installing two 

solar thermal systems to heat the pool and spa and provide domestic hot 


* According to information from DOE, DOD developed and implemented 

plans to reduce building energy use and incorporate environmentally 

sensitive materials, including materials that require the least energy 

to produce and that can be recycled after use, as part of an extensive 

$1.1 billion renovation of the Pentagon. As part of these efforts, DOD 

constructed a new state-of-the-art heating and ventilation plant, 

modified and insulated the building envelope to increase energy 

efficiency, and built irrigation systems that use water from the nearby 

Potomac River to irrigate areas around the building. DOD also built two 

solar electric systems to demonstrate the reliability and feasibility 

of using solar energy. One of the goals of the renovation project is to 

cut energy costs by up to 30 percent by fiscal year 2005, which 

according to DOD officials could save between $4 million and $5 million 

each year.

* Energy efficient design was used, according to information from DOE, 

in constructing the new Zion National Park Visitor Center and 

Transportation Center at Zion National Park in Utah that opened in May 

2000. According to DOE, the National Park Service worked with DOE to 

create a design that preserves the natural beauty of the park while 

saving energy and money. Innovative features included systems that work 

to naturally cool or heat the facility, electricity producing solar 

panels, and efficient landscaping that complements the building and 

reduces the need for irrigation. Overall, DOE predicts that these 

features will save about $14,000 a year. Figure 2 shows the new Zion 

National Park Center.

Figure 2: Zion National Park Visitor Center, Utah:

[See PDF for image]

Source: DOE/National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Robb Williamson 


[End of figure]

In addition to these examples, our work at the Government Printing 

Office (GPO) and GSA in recent years illustrated the potential cost 

benefits of investing in energy efficiency. For example:

* At GPO, the Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO) estimated that GPO 

could save over $400,000 a year on energy and maintenance costs by 

replacing its outdated air conditioning chillers with new, more energy 

efficient chillers.[Footnote 8] We also reported that PEPCO had 

recommended that GPO consider upgrading its energy inefficient lighting 

at an estimated cost of $1.6 million to achieve an estimated $800,000 

in annual energy savings. According to GPO, it plans to have the 

chiller project completed in April 2003 and the lighting upgrade 

completed by May 2003.

* In our work on the backlog of repair and alteration needs in GSA-

controlled federal buildings, we found that 44 buildings in GSA’s 

inventory each had $20 million or more in repair and alteration 

backlogs.[Footnote 9] Many of the repair and alteration needs in these 

buildings had a direct impact on the energy efficiency of the 

buildings, including aging and inefficient plumbing, heating, 

ventilation, and air conditioning systems. For example, the Dwight D. 

Eisenhower Building in Washington, D.C., had a repair and alteration 

backlog of $216 million, which included the need to address the 

building’s antiquated air conditioning system. GSA officials said that 

this system, which uses about 250 individual window units, is outdated 

and not efficient in cooling the building or conserving energy. Figure 

3 shows an individual air-conditioning unit in a window in the 

Eisenhower building.

Figure 3: One Of About 250 Inefficient Window Air Conditioning Units in 

the Dwight Eisenhower Building in Washington, D.C.

[See PDF for image]

Source: GAO.

Note: Photograph taken in August 2000.

[End of figure]

Some Agencies Have Identified Obstacles to Using Energy Efficient, 

Green Approaches:

Despite the possible benefits of using energy efficient, green 

approaches in federal construction and renovation projects, available 

data indicate that some agencies believe they face significant 

obstacles in implementing these approaches. In April 2001, the U.S. 

Green Building Council surveyed 11 federal real-property-holding 

agencies about their green building activities.[Footnote 10] Among 

other things, the survey asked the agencies to identify any obstacles 

they face in achieving green building goals and objectives. The 

obstacles identified by the agencies generally fell into the following 


* Many architects, engineers, agency stakeholders, contractors, and 

customers are not knowledgeable about green building practices and 

technology. The survey respondents generally said that this lack of 

knowledge and expertise made it difficult to design, build, and promote 

green buildings.

* Respondents noted that green projects might have higher initial 

costs, but actually can be more cost-effective over the life of the 

facility and have other benefits. The higher initial costs can be more 

difficult to justify to decisionmakers.

* Related to higher initial costs, respondents expressed concern that 

it can be difficult to get top agency leaders to make green buildings a 

management priority. Consequently, the respondents felt that funding 

decisions are sometimes made without adequate input from design and 

construction professionals.

* Some of the benefits of green buildings are difficult to quantify. 

For example, the respondents noted that good measures exist for energy 

and cost savings, but that many green projects also improve employee 

productivity and well-being. Further, they said that some higher-priced 

building materials are better for the environment, which is a benefit 

difficult to quantify.

* At a time when budget constraints will be pervasive, the higher up-

front costs of energy efficient designs could prove to be an especially 

challenging obstacle. As a result, less costly approaches that are less 

energy efficient could “look cheaper” in a single year’s appropriation 

because life cycle costs--including the savings that would result from 

energy efficient designs--generally occur in later years.

Agencies’ Use of Alternative Fuel Vehicles:

In addition to efforts to make federal facilities more energy 

efficient, other initiatives have attempted to reduce the nation’s 

consumption of petroleum fuels in transportation through the use of 

alternative fuels in the federal vehicle fleet. In particular, EPACT 

set broad goals for replacing the transportation sector’s use of 

petroleum fuels by at least 10 percent by the year 2000 and at least 30 

percent by the year 2010. To help meet these goals, this act required 

that the federal government, as well as state governments and certain 

other fleet operators, purchase vehicles that run on alternative fuels, 

such as ethanol, methanol, natural gas, propane, and electricity, among 

others. Further, the act specified that, in 1996, 25 percent of the new 

vehicles purchased by the federal government should operate on 

alternative fuels, with the target percentage increasing to 33 percent 

in 1997, 50 percent in 1998, and 75 percent in 1999 and beyond.

Based on our assessment in 2000, the federal government as a whole has 

made progress in acquiring alternative fuel vehicles, although it has 

not always met the act’s annual targets, as shown in table 1 

below.[Footnote 11] Further, procurement of these vehicles has been 

inconsistent across federal agencies: Some agencies have exceeded their 

purchase mandates in a year when others acquired very few or no 

alternative fuel vehicles. For example, in 1998, USPS acquired 10,000 

ethanol alternative fuel vehicles to deliver the mail. This purchase 

was the major reason why the federal government collectively met the 

mandated acquisition target of 50 percent (12,362 alternative fuel 

vehicles) for that year.

Figure 4: Federal Acquisition of Alternative Fuel Vehicles:

Year: 1993; Vehicles required to meet mandates: 5,000; Reported 

acquisitions of vehicles: 4,500.

Year: 1994; Vehicles required to meet mandates: 7,500; Reported 

acquisitions of vehicles: 8,000.

Year: 1995; Vehicles required to meet mandates: 10,000; Reported 

acquisitions of vehicles: 4,000.

Year: 1996; Vehicles required to meet mandates: Data not available; 

Reported acquisitions of vehicles: 6,000.

Year: 1997; Vehicles required to meet mandates: 5,000; Reported 

acquisitions of vehicles: 3,624.

Year: 1998; Vehicles required to meet mandates: 12,362; Reported 

acquisitions of vehicles: 14,205.

Year: 1999; Vehicles required to meet mandates: 19,593; Reported 

acquisitions of vehicles: 18,345.

Year: 2000; Vehicles required to meet mandates: 15,259; Reported 

acquisitions of vehicles: 15,000.

[See PDF for image]

Source: DOE.

[End of table]

The federal fleet’s acquisition of alternative fuel vehicles has not 

reduced gasoline consumption as much as hoped for several reasons. For 

example, the act does not establish targets for use of alternative 

fuels--just the acquisition of vehicles that can run on them. However, 

some of the alternative fuel vehicles that federal agencies have 

purchased can also run on gasoline, and fleet officials told us 

individuals driving the vehicles often refuel with gasoline because it 

is much more convenient to find gasoline refueling stations than 

refueling stations that supply alternative fuels. In addition, some 

drivers have been reluctant to use alternative fuel vehicles because of 

safety concerns or a lack of familiarity with the vehicles’ technology 

and so choose to use the agencies’ gasoline powered vehicles.

According to officials at DOE, the act’s mandates for purchases of 

alternative fuel vehicles by federal and other fleets were designed to 

demonstrate the use of the vehicles and stimulate purchases of them by 

the general public. Some supporters of the mandates believed federal 

and other fleets would demand enough alternative fuel vehicles to 

create a general market for these vehicles. However, the vehicles in 

federal and other fleets represent a small proportion of the vehicles 

on the road. As a result, according to DOE, if all of these fleets met 

the act’s targets for alternative fuel vehicles, the use of alternative 

fuels by these vehicles would represent less than 1 percent of 

petroleum fuels used in 2010--far below the act’s goals of 10 and 30 

percent replacement in 2000 and 2010, respectively. In addition, to 

reach the 10-percent goal, DOE estimates sales of alternative fuel 

vehicles nationwide would have to grow by about 1.5 to 1.9 million 

vehicles per year. By comparison, the entire production of Ford’s 

passenger cars in 1996 was slightly more than 1.4 million.

Federal acquisitions of alternative fuel vehicles and their use of 

alternative fuels have not met expectations because of the same 

economic impediments that have discouraged the general public from 

buying these vehicles and thus abandoning conventional vehicles. These 

impediments include lack of refueling infrastructure, the relatively 

lower price of gasoline, limitations in vehicle performance, and higher 

purchase prices for some of the vehicles.

With regard to the overall goals set in the act, limited progress has 

been made in replacing petroleum fuels with alternative fuels. Based on 

our work in 2000, DOE estimated that alternative fuels used in 

alternative fuel vehicles replaced about 334 million gallons of 

gasoline in 1998, representing about 0.3 percent of total gasoline 

consumed during that year. In addition, about 3.9 billion gallons of 

alternative fuels (e.g., ethanol and methanol) were blended with 

gasoline and used in conventional gasoline vehicles in 1998. Thus, in 

total, about 4.23 billion gallons of gasoline were replaced by 

alternative fuels, which represent approximately 3.6 percent of all 

highway gasoline use--considerably less than the act’s goal of 10 

percent in 2000.

As we noted in 2000,[Footnote 12] as an alternative approach to meeting 

the act’s goals, federal fleets could increase efficiency and use less 

petroleum fuel if, in addition to using alternative fuel vehicles, 

federal efforts were focused on buying and using gasoline vehicles that 

are highly fuel-efficient, such as the hybrid gasoline-electric 

vehicles that have recently entered the market. Allowing federal 

agencies to acquire these vehicles would reduce the federal fleet’s 

consumption of gasoline while maintaining the conveniences in refueling 

and service available with conventional vehicles.

Contacts and Acknowledgment:

For questions regarding this testimony, please contact Bernard L. Ungar 

for facilities issues at (202) 512-2834 or at, or Jim 

Wells for alternative fuel vehicle issues at (202) 512-6877 or at Individuals making key contributions to this testimony 

included Casey L. Brown, Daniel Haas, David E. Sausville, and Daren 



[1] U.S. General Services Administration, Summary Report of Real 

Property Owned by the United States Throughout the World (Washington, 

D.C.: June 2001); U.S. General Services Administration, Summary Report 

of Real Property Leased by the United States Throughout the World 

(Washington, D.C.: June 2001). We have reported that the governmentwide 

real property data that GSA compiles--often referred to as the 

worldwide inventory--have been unreliable and of limited usefulness. 

However, these data provide the only available indication of the size 

and characteristics of the federal real property inventory. For more 

information, see U.S. General Accounting Office, Federal Real Property: 

Better Governmentwide Data Needed for Strategic Decisionmaking, 

GAO-02-342 (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 16, 2002).

[2] Pub. L. No. 100-615, 102 Stat. 3185 (1988). 

[3] 42 U.S.C. § 8252.

[4] Pub. L. No. 102-486, 106 Stat. 2776 (1992).

[5] See Executive Orders 13148, 13149, 13123, and 13101.

[6] The term building envelope includes the walls, roof, and floors 

that enclose a heated or cooled space. 

[7] Under Executive Order 13101, the Federal Environmental Executive 

chairs the White House Task Force on Waste Prevention and Recycling and 

seeks to promote sustainable environmental stewardship throughout the 

federal government.

[8] U.S. General Accounting Office, Government Printing Office: Space 

Utilization and Potential Opportunities for Savings on Facilities, 

unnumbered correspondence (Washington, D.C.: July 24, 2000).

[9] U.S. General Accounting Office, Federal Buildings: Funding Repairs 

and Alterations Has Been a Challenge--Expanded Financing Tools Needed, 

GAO-01-452 (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 12, 2001).

[10] U.S. Green Building Council, Federal Agency Survey 2001 

(Washington, D.C.: Apr. 2001). The 11 agencies surveyed were the 

National Institute of Standards and Technologies; the National Park 

Service; the U.S. Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence, Design 

Group; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; DOE, Office of Building 

Technology, State and Community Programs; U.S. Department of the 

Interior; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; GSA; U.S. Department of 

Housing and Urban Development; U.S. Navy, Naval Facilities Engineering 

Command; and USPS.

[11] U.S. General Accounting Office, Energy Policy Act of 1992: Limited 

Progress in Acquiring Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Reaching Fuel 

Goals, GAO/RCED-00-59 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 11, 2000).

[12] GAO/RCED-00-59