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Federal Agencies Met 2007 Energy Efficiency Goals, But Challenges Lie Ahead, Report Says

October 2008 - Energy Efficiency

Most of the 22 agencies reporting to the Department of Energy for fiscal year 2007 met energy goals for energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, and renewable energy. according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office  (GAO) report.

All but one agency, the Railroad Retirement Board, met the energy efficiency goal of reducing energy intensity by 6 percent from a 2003 baseline. Three of these agencies would not have met the goal through reductions in energy intensity--the amount of energy consumed per gross square foot--alone; they also used credits for the purchase of renewable energy or source energy to help meet the goal.

Because the greenhouse gas emission goal is tied to the energy efficiency goal, the same number of agencies met the greenhouse gas emission goal. The renewable energy goal, which requires that at least 3 percent of total electric energy consumption come from renewable energy sources, with at least half of the required renewable energy an agency consumes coming from resources put into service after January 1, 1999, was met by 17 of the 22 agencies.

The GAO report found that agencies' prospects for meeting energy goals into the future depend on overcoming four key challenges. First, the six agencies GAO reviewed--the departments of Defense, Energy, and Veterans Affairs; the General Services Administration; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and the U.S. Postal Service --had long-term plans for achieving energy goals that lacked key elements, such as plans that outline agencies' strategies that are linked to goals and provide a framework for aligning activities, processes, and resources to attain the goals of the plan.

Second, investment in energy projects competes with other budget priorities, causing agency officials to increasingly rely on alternative financing mechanisms--contracts with private companies that pay for energy improvements. However, agencies entering into these contracts could not always verify whether money saved from using less energy was greater than projected costs and may yield lower savings than if timely, full, and upfront appropriations had been used.

Third, agencies face challenges in obtaining reliable energy consumption data but are taking steps to collect more reliable data. Finally, facilities may lack staff dedicated to energy management and may find it difficult to retain staff with sufficient energy expertise; however, agency officials are participating in training and implementing initiatives for energy management personnel.


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