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Highlights

The federal government is the nation's single largest energy consumer, spending approximately $17 billion in fiscal year 2007. A number of statutes and executive orders have established and revised goals directing agencies to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions--such as carbon dioxide, which results from combustion of fossil fuels and natural processes, among other things--and increase renewable energy use. GAO was asked to determine the extent to which (1) federal agencies met energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emission, and renewable energy goals in fiscal year 2007; (2) federal agencies have made progress in each of these areas in the recent past; and (3) six selected agencies are poised to meet energy goals into the future. For this review, GAO, among other things, conducted site visits for six agencies and reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) annual reports to Congress on federal energy management.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Energy The Secretary of Energy should, in conjunction with the Federal Environmental Executive and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, re-evaluate the current measure for greenhouse gas emissions and establish one that more accurately reflects agencies' performance in reducing these emissions to help determine whether agencies are making progress over time.
Closed - Implemented
The greenhouse gas emissions metric did not accurately reflect agencies' performance in reducing greenhouse gas emissions because it was tied to agencies' reductions in energy intensity and did not account for emissions reductions in absolute terms. In response to our recommendation, the Administration issued Executive Order 13514 in 2009, which made reduction of greenhouse gas emissions a priority for federal agencies and set deadlines and targets for achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions in absolute terms.
Department of Energy To help agencies address the challenges they face in meeting energy goals into the future, the Secretary of Energy should finalize and issue guidance that instructs agencies in developing long-term energy plans that consider the key elements of effective plans identified in this report.
Closed - Implemented
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires Department of Energy (DOE) to prepare guidelines and criteria for meeting the Act's energy and water efficiency goals. DOE issued guidelines and criteria in December 2008, and updated and final guidance and criteria in September 2012. Among other things, the guidance and criteria provide context for how agencies' energy and water efficiency actions fit into the comprehensive approach to facility energy and water management outlined by the Act; it also describes the role of the tracking system that has been developed for collecting and reporting data needed to demonstrate compliance and progress toward meeting all energy and water efficiency requirements. We believe this guidance and criteria address the deficiency we noted in the 2008 report and address our recommendation.

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