SFTool Blog

Welcome to the SFTool Blog. The Sustainable Facilities Tool (sftool.gov) helps you do more than learn about high-performance buildings and purchasing. SFTool helps you put this knowledge into practice, and assemble the people you need to help you get stuff done.

We’ve decided to share some of our experiences while developing SFTool. We’ll talk about interactions with the building community, challenges we’ve overcome designing the site, and other stories about putting high-performance ideas into practice.

Note: The SFTool blog may contain links to websites of public and private organizations, as well as references to specific products used in development. A link or mention anywhere on SFTool is not an endorsement of the views, products, or services provided by the mentioned resource or product.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Leading the World – How do Federal Agency Goals Stack up Against The U.S.’ Paris Climate Commitments?

In early December in Paris, France, nearly 200 countries agreed to the most comprehensive agreement to date to combat climate change. The goal, which climate scientists believe is necessary to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change, is to keep global temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, while attempting to reach a 1.5 degree cap.

To accomplish this, the United Nations asked countries for their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). Submitted in March of 2015, the US set forth a goal to reduce emissions 26-28% from the 2005 baseline by 2025. This represents a 2.3-2.8% yearly reduction after achieving the initial 17% reduction by 2020 goal (orange line on chart below). The goal applies to the entire U.S. economy, and is based on projected improvements in technology and regulatory actions like EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The final five years of the plan require doubling the nation’s current GHG reduction rate.

If you have followed climate change policy at all in the US, this may sound familiar - and it should! The Federal government has already taken actions to cut its footprint in an effort to achieve sustainability goals - but how do they compare to those in the INDC, and where do they come from?

Executive Order (EO) 13514, signed by President Obama in 2010, was entitled ‘Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance.’ This wasn’t meant only to demonstrate leadership domestically, but abroad as well. EO 13514 has been superseded by EO 13693, which strengthened many commitments to continue federal leadership.

EO 13693 is directed at Federal agencies and their emissions. After initially achieving a 17% reduction in greenhouse gases (GHGs) from a 2005 baseline by 2015, the new EO strengthens and extends the goal to a total of 41.8% reduction by 2025 from a 2008 baseline (blue line). The goal revision was a result of continued long range planning based on strong emission reduction progress to date, as well as updated emissions information. The chart below compares these Federal goals to those found in our INDC.

You may find yourself asking a lot of questions at this point. What is the Federal government doing to lead the way? What does the nation have to do to catch up? How much of the total US footprint does the Federal government represent? What emissions sources are considered in the nationwide emissions versus just the Federal emissions? For this post, we will focus on a few requirements and strategies that the Federal government has deployed that can be widely applied.

From 2003 to 2014, Federal buildings reduced their energy use at a rate of 1.9% per year. Paramount among the goals of EO 13693 is a 2.5% annual reduction in building energy use per square foot. The EO lists several strategies to help achieve this, including implementation of test-bed technologies and by monitoring monthly energy usage in the EPA’s EnergyStar tool. Monitoring allows building operators to adjust energy use based on trends they observe. Submetering can identify on a more targeted basis which building aspects use the most energy, and identify areas for capital improvement.

Reducing energy is the first step - using renewable energy to meet the reduced load should be the second. The goal is 30% renewable energy use for Federal buildings by 2025. In fiscal year 2014, we were at 8.76%. Renewable electric energy comes in common forms, like solar and wind, as well as less common forms, like landfill gas, ocean wave, and geothermal energy. Also, agencies aren’t limited to buying renewable energy - they are encouraged to produce it on site in an effort to achieve net-zero energy.

Many Federal agencies, as well as many US businesses, maintain fleets of vehicles to operate. EO13693 mandates that, by 2025, 50% of all new Federal vehicle purchases be zero-emissions or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Planning for Federal facilities to have alternative fuel infrastructure for their fleets is included in the EO. Electric vehicle charging stations are a popular and now widely available way of achieving these goals; if it helps reduce cost while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it’s a great choice for the private sector to make as well.

This post suggests three ways the US Federal government is leading the way to reduced GHG emissions that simultaneously reduce operational costs. These include reduced building energy use, increased reliance on renewable energy and increased alternative fuel vehicle infrastructure. Find out more about these and other sustainable best practices at sftool.gov. By widely disseminating this information to both the public and private sectors, for free, we can help give ideas to the nation that reduce our environmental footprint while driving American innovation and economic growth.