How the federal government can take clean energy further, faster
Federal agencies are coming under increasing pressure to pursue — and seeing increasing benefit from — deep savings via energy retrofits.
With the passage of Executive Order 13693 accelerating federal sustainability targets in March, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 in April and the Clean Power Plan in August, federal agencies are scrambling to target larger energy reductions, install more renewable energy resources, follow a number of sustainability-based principles and even aim for net-zero energy.
In September, the Department of Energy released a common definition for net-zero energy buildings that also applies to campuses, portfolios and communities, heralding a push toward net zero.
This promises an exciting energy future but presents a challenge for the government given limited appropriated funds and personnel. The Energy Exchange, a three-day conference in August, was a true testament to this increasing priority, and an acknowledgement that public- and private-sector collaborations are the best way to get there.
Public- and private-sector collaborations allow the federal government to benefit from market advantages and allow private companies to serve a substantial and forward-thinking client. The government benefits from the expertise, agility and market savvy of private energy services companies, technology vendors and energy consultants.
While government agencies could provide some of these services in-house, contracting these services allows them to focus on agency mission while relying on private firms to provide more cost-effective and cutting-edge services.
Because winning a project with the government is competitive, public-private collaborations provide a higher return on the taxpayer dollar while supporting agency mission. In serving the federal government, these companies gain a huge and reliable customer that is able to drive more-aggressive energy goals (and more interesting energy projects) than private-sector clients due to the long-term view they take of their facilities.
The Energy Exchange is an opportunity to share best practices, learn about the cutting edge in energy performance and discuss the benefits that contractors in this space can provide.
This in-person meeting is the only event of its kind at this scale, and nothing like it has taken place since 2011. It has the convening power to bring the disparate federal players together despite budget cuts and travel limitations.
While the stated purpose of the 2015 Energy Exchange was to provide training in energy practices, the true value of this event came from informal conversations, group discussions and face-to-face engagements between federal and private players. In-person engagements can lead to new introductions, creative brainstorming and a sense of camaraderie that can’t be achieved through digital communication.