Agencies have plans, now will go green

Monday - 9/13/2010, 6:24am EDT

WFED's Jason Miller

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Now that the planning is finished, agencies can really get down to work to make the government more energy efficient.

And there are plenty of short and long term ideas, said Michelle Moore, the Federal Environmental Executive in the White House's Council on Economic Quality.

"There was a tremendous amount of diversity from the Defense Department to the National Capital Planning Commission," Moore said in an interview with Federal News Radio. "Some of the common themes across all agencies were energy audits to find out where we have the greatest opportunity for energy efficiency. A lot of renewable energy plans, such as solar panels and solar hot water heaters, and employee engagement and greening aspects of employees experience such as expanding recycling, greening cafeterias and composting programs."

Moore said agencies routinely mentioned implementing the ideas from the White House's GreenGov Challenge, held earlier this year, in their plans.

The White House publicly posted sustainability plans from 56 agencies. The goal is to reduce how much energy agencies use across nearly 500,000 buildings, from more than 600,000 vehicles and more than 1.8 million civilians. And, of course, the plans could mean huge costs savings as well. The government spent more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone, the White House states in a release.

President Barack Obama issued an executive order in October mandating specific energy efficiency goals.

"These plans are agency specific, but when you put it all together this is how the federal government is going to be reaching those executive order targets," Moore said.

The administration's goals include reducing federal vehicle gas use by 30 percent, improving water efficiency by 26 percent and increasing recycling by 50 percent.

The White House received a positive response from at least one member in Congress.

"While this is a great first step, it's just the beginning of the federal government's efforts to lead by example," said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security in a release. "These plans will - and should - evolve along the way as agencies work to reach some pretty ambitious goals and benchmarks. We in the Congress, along with our partners in the administration, plan on holding agencies to account and offering any assistance they might need as they begin this worthwhile journey. It's clear that we can fuel a brighter and more responsible federal government using the cleanest and cheapest energy of all - the energy we don't use."

Moore said agencies will get a boost later this year when the CEQ and the George Washington University host the GreenGov Symposium in October.

"The GreenGov symposium is focused on how we move out and execute the goals of executive order," Moore said. "Sessions will include the nuts and bolts of how you become more energy efficient whether it's leading edge technologies for sustainable buildings or other areas. It's very important that while the conference is focused on the federal government and the federal community, there will be opportunities to learn from leaders in the non-profit community."

There will be more than 50 education sessions at the conference, she added.

Moore said CEQ has been leading an education effort for all agencies over the past year to help them prepare the plans. The administration and agency sustainability officers have focused on interagency collaboration and coordination through working groups, Webinars and workshops.

Agencies will have to update these plans annually, and there are several more deadlines coming soon.

Moore said the next one for agencies is measuring their greenhouse gas emission by January 2011. The Energy Department will provide agencies with a tool by October to do that, which will be the first time for the government ever has established a baseline. Agencies must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020.

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