WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Susan M. Collins, R-Me., introduced a bill Wednesday aimed at making the federal government, the world’s largest institutional consumer of energy, more energy efficient. Her measure also would require that all executive branch agencies set clear goals in order to chart progress in this critical area.
Making government more energy efficient would save taxpayers money, Senator Collins said in introducing the Federal Agency Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2009, S 1830. Evidence clearly shows that when federal agencies aggressively enact energy savings initiatives, significant expense savings follow. For example, environmental management systems at two U.S. Department of Energy laboratories led to more than $16.6 million in cost savings and avoidance within a four-year period.
“As the largest institutional user of energy in the world, the federal government has ample opportunity to implement energy efficiency policies and technologies,” Senator Collins said. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program, the federal government consumes 1.6 percent of the nation’s total energy—about $17.5 billion in annual energy costs.
“Electricity at federal buildings accounts for almost half of this usage. Improving energy efficiency is not only good for the environment; it can also produce savings for taxpayers,” Senator Collins said.
The measure also would enable government agencies at all levels – federal, state and local – to share energy-saving technologies in order to continue lowering taxpayer costs. Joining Senator Collins as co-sponsors of her bill were Senators Lieberman and Carper.
To lead the initiative, the bill would create a Chief Conservation Officer within each federal agency. The officers, appointed from the ranks of career Senior Executives, would provide aggressive and targeted leadership in this effort.
Over the past several decades, achieving energy efficiency within the federal government has been the goal of more than a dozen laws, regulations, and Executive Orders. Despite those efforts, “agencies have been inconsistent and sporadic in meeting their environmental goals,” Senator Collins said.
“The lack of a unified effort and the lack of accountability within agencies have undermined the good intentions of these policies,” she said. “A great variance exists across the government, both in terms of compliance with energy efficiency laws and regulations, as well as with initiatives individual agencies have developed to reduce energy usage. Agencies should explore diverse and innovative ways to save money by decreasing energy consumption, as well as having greater incentives to undertake initiatives to meet energy reduction mandates.”
Senator Collins noted that the Obama Administration issued an Executive Order earlier this month that makes strides in establishing a more integrated strategy toward sustainability and energy efficiency.
“This Executive Order, however, does not go far enough in providing agency officials with the authority and accountability necessary to enforce applicable efficiency mandates,” she said.
Under Collins’ measure, the Chief Conservation Officer within each agency would be responsible for implementing energy efficiency and sustainability policies. “Dedicating a senior-level career official to energy efficiency policy would improve the government’s focus on implementation of existing laws and policies, enhance innovation, and help identify future initiatives,” she said.
The bill also would make several improvements in government procurement policies, allowing state and local government to purchase “green” commodities and services from the General Services Administration Schedule. This procurement authority would help State and local governments reduce the administrative costs of negotiating their own contracts and would increase competition and lower costs. Federal agencies should also reap the benefits of this program as more goods and services become available at reduced costs.
Participation in the program would be voluntary for State and local governments, as well as vendors.
Over the next five years, the legislation would also allow agencies to enter into power purchase agreements for electricity produced by renewable energy sources. These agreements could last not more than 20 years and agencies would need to assess that the agreements would be cost effective before entering into them.
“By promoting accountability for meeting existing energy efficiency mandates and by encouraging initiatives to decrease energy usage and spur innovation, this bill would help ‘green’ our federal operations. The associated savings should improve our government’s bottom line—to the benefit of taxpayers,” Senator Collins said.
Environmental groups, including Environment Northeast, or ENE, out of Rockport, Maine, have endorsed the legislation.