Agencies Respond to President's Memorandum to Conserve Energy (article from FEMP Focus Special Issue 2006)

February 27, 2006

As mandated in President Bush's September 26, 2005 memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies (see page 3), federal agencies reported through the Secretary of Energy on their actions to conserve energy. Their reports show a tremendous response to this call through the immediate implementation of a wide variety of energy-saving measures, from increasing awareness programs, optimizing heating, cooling, and air conditioning systems, to facilitating telecommuting. Highlights of the many actions taken by agencies follow.

Awareness Activities

Many agencies reported increasing awareness activities to spread the word about conserving energy. In the Department of Defense (DOD), energy conservation memoranda reinforcing the President's message were sent out by the Deputy Secretary of Defense and senior officials in each of the DOD components. In the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an article on the directive was included in the publication DHS Today. The Department of Health and Human Services published a "Special Energy Conservation Edition" of the HHS Energy News.

The General Services Administration (GSA) initiated several customer outreach measures, identifying specific actions that all GSA customers can take to reduce energy usage. GSA Federal Supply Service, which provides 200,000 vehicles to customer agencies, distributed a letter with helpful fuel conservation advice to customers. GSA's Public Buildings Service has also distributed information to its customers with suggested actions for decreasing plug loads.

Facility Energy Reductions

Agencies took varied measures, both large and small, to curtail energy use in facilities. Several agencies reported consolidating or shutting down facilities. GSA eliminated 24/7 operations at three sites. The Department of the Interior plans to consolidate 24-hour operations at U.S. Geological Survey facilities where possible, and is considering shutting down unused nonessential facilities in the Bureau of Land Management.

Agencies are achieving greater energy efficiency through more efficient operations and maintenance. In the Department of the Treasury, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is saving natural gas by shutting down the thermal oxidizer process during non-production periods. To conserve diesel fuel, NASA has reduced test running of its generators by 50 percent. NASA has also reduced its on-site power generation requirement for distant spacecraft communication operations. The Environmental Protection Agency reported that laboratories have been able to conserve more energy by improving management of fume hood operations by laboratory personnel.

Agencies implemented a number of steps to optimize HVAC systems. The National Archives and Records Administration began turning off selected air handlers at night in office spaces. The Department of Commerce also increased by an additional hour the length of time that office HVAC units are cycled off at night and on weekends. HHS began turning off the HVAC on weekends, reducing HVAC to 12 hours per day during the week and shutting down non-essential space heating and cooling one hour before the normal close of each workday where possible.

Savings were also achieved through optimizing energy management control systems and metering energy use. In DHS, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center installed and upgraded direct digital controls in several existing buildings. DOD incorporated occupancy controllers in dorms and barracks to decrease heating oil consumption. At EPA, meters were installed to track overall campus energy consumption and identify usage patterns. Sub-meters were also installed to track energy use within specific buildings. DOD performed night surveys to minimize off-hour electricity consumption.

Federal agencies have increased procurement of energy efficient products. To facilitate the purchasing of energy efficient products, EPA's Region 4 Office worked with the Georgia Energy Facility Authority on a tax-free weekend for the purchase of Energy Star-labeled products throughout the state from October 6-9, 2005.

Several agencies conserved more energy by limiting the operating hours for elevators and escalators. The Federal Trade Commission has turned off one elevator at each end of its Headquarters building and one elevator in their annex.

Agencies also took steps to decrease the drain on energy by plug loads. The Department of State is moving forward on a program to provide guidance to employees on what appliances should not be in workspaces. DOE unplugged the compressors on 84 water fountains. The Smithsonian reported that it has shut down selected decorative fountains.

Agencies implemented measures to conserve the energy used for lighting. Commerce reduced lighting levels in common areas such as building corridors, and installed occupancy sensors for lighting in public corridors, restrooms, and conference rooms. DOD turned off decorative lighting in all Defense commissaries.

Several agencies reported building envelope improvements. Commerce installed automatic closers on loading dock roll-up doors to minimize energy loss. The Department of Labor has installed new permanent weather stripping, caulking, and insulation in its owned buildings. DOE reported improving insulation on building roofs.

Agencies have taken measures to maximize boiler efficiency. In the Department of Transportation, boilers are being shut down one hour early every day at the Federal Aviation Administration's Mike Monroney Center. Low-fire operation on boilers has also been extended. NASA decommissioned central boiler plants and replaced them with high efficiency local boilers. DHS is increasing the operating efficiencies of its boiler plants. At the DHS Federal Law Enforcement Training Center Charleston campus, increasing boiler operating pressures have decreased burner cycling. Also, boiler combustion chamber and heat transfer surface cleanings were increased and a boiler with a gas analyzing monitoring system was installed.

Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Savings

Agencies implemented a wide variety of measures to curtail vehicle and equipment fuel. Several agencies reported replacing eight-cylinder vehicles with more fuel-efficient six-cylinder vehicles. EPA Headquarters acquired a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. HHS will expand the use of electric carts on large campuses and reduce truck use. Commerce has converted three-quarter-ton vehicles to more fuel-efficient utility carts. At the Social Security Adminstration's headquarters, a fuel tank was retrofitted so that alternative fuel vehicles can easily obtain and use E-85 fuel. Within DHS, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center adjusted its ferry schedule and limited runs to only those required for mission accomplishment to conserve diesel fuel.

Many agencies reported encouraging employees to use the smallest and most fuel efficient vehicle possible to perform their mission. Agencies are also facilitating increased employee use of carpools, mass transit, telecommuting, and compressed work schedules.