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DOE Rule Targets Federal Building Emissions

Facilities will have to reduce their on-site emissions associated with building energy use by 90 percent relative to 2003 levels.   January 4, 2023

By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor 

Energy efficiency was once a nice-to-have goal for institutional and commercial facilities. With the impact of climate change become more frequent, severe and costly, that goal and its impact on greenhouse gas emissions have turned the goal into a must-have for facilities, including new or newly renovated federal buildings. 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced a new proposed rule to electrify and cut emissions from new or newly renovated federal buildings. Beginning in 2025, these facilities will be required to reduce their on-site emissions associated with the energy consumption of the building by 90 percent relative to 2003 levels. 

In 2030, the standard will fully decarbonize the on-site emissions in new federal buildings and major renovations. These measures will help advance the adoption of cleaner technologies for buildings that are necessary to achieve the goal of net-zero emissions in all federal buildings by 2045.  

Buildings are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and fossil fuels used in federal buildings account for over 25 percent of all federal emissions. If enacted within the proposed timeframe, DOE estimates the new emission reductions requirements would save taxpayers $8 million annually in upfront equipment costs. Over the next 30 years, the new rule would reduce carbon emissions from federal buildings by 1.86 million metric tons and methane emissions by 22.8 thousand tons — an amount roughly equivalent to the emissions generated by nearly 300,000 homes in one year.   

The new rule aims to accelerate the electrification of the federal building stock by phasing out on-site, fossil-fuel usage for end-uses such as heating and water heating. The rule will not penalize agencies for using fossil fuels to conduct mission-critical activities such as national security. DOE also has established a petition process that will address concerns relating to technical feasibility for specific applications within a given building and climate zone.    

Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 25 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management. 


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