Federal Energy Management:

Facility and Vehicle Energy Efficiency Issues

GAO-03-545T: Published: Mar 12, 2003. Publicly Released: Mar 12, 2003.

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Bernard L. Ungar
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GAO testified that 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 the Department of Energy, 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 responsibilities."

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.

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