DoE forges ahead in green trend

Monday - 7/9/2012, 7:06pm EDT

By Taeja Smith
Special to Federal News Radio

Changes to the Energy Department Forrestal Building, the centerpiece of the department's headquarters complex, will save an estimated $600,000 annually.

"Through the installation of the new chiller plant, we're saving money on our air conditioning bills with more efficient equipment while providing much more reliable air conditioning to our critical facilities", said Peter O'Konski, the director for the department's Office of Administration, in a release. "That's good for our environment, our customers and our bottom line."

Energy used an Energy Savings Performance Contract, which is a public-private partnership with NORESCO, to construct the chiller plant. This contract lets the department apply industry best practices and use private financing for the project, according to a blog post on Energy.gov. Recovery of the financing costs comes from the energy savings.

The partnership, in addition, will introduce improvements such as LED exterior lights, steam-trap repairs and a variable air-volume system that are expected to save $59.5 million over the long term.

These improvements are part of the way the agency says it's meeting Secretary Steven Chu's energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals established in support of Executive Order 13514 Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance.

To adhere to its sustainability commitment, the department recently replaced its aging roofs at Forrestal. According to the blog, the new, cool roofs reflect heat and reduce the energy needed for cooling — saving more money and improving comfort. DoE's Germantown office is completing a similar cool roof installation this year.

In 2010, Chu required the agency to install cool roofs at DOE facilities. Chu announced this initiative will demonstrate the benefits of cool roofs and display the government leading the nation toward a more sustainable building practices, "while reducing the federal carbon footprint and saving money for taxpayers."

In the Office of Management and Budget's 2011 sustainability scorecard, DoE's sustainability-energy efforts earned a green score for its efforts to meet the emission reduction target and use renewable energy. But the agency earned red scores in the green building and petroleum usage categories.

DoE is trying to improve its low score in green building sustainability efforts by installing 126 new cool roofs on its buildings around the country this year.

Taeja Smith is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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