Will EO 13834 Impact Ongoing Sustainability Efforts at Federal Agencies?

Today’s sustainability challenges are similar to the energy and pollution crisis of the 1970s that resulted in the invention of catalytic converters and fuel-efficient engines. Innovation born of necessity helped the United States become successful in producing cheaper fuels and environmentally safe cars. Fast forward to the 21st century and we have seen the nation’s federal agencies employing innovative strategies for reducing energy consumption and increasing efficiency. Many of these strategies have resulted from compliance with 2015’s Executive Order (EO) 13693 “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade,” which was intended to guide the federal government to become leaders in driving national greenhouse gas reductions and supporting preparations for the impacts of climate change.

A New Mandate

On May 18, 2018, the new EO 13834, “Executive Order Regarding Efficient Federal Operations” was released that provides new guidelines on implementing efficient federal operations, including energy and water efficiency, solid and toxic waste management, and greenhouse gas reductions. With the new EO in place, many are wondering what the impact will be on ongoing sustainability-focused activities. This article addresses those potential impacts and recommends strategies that should be implemented prior to dismantling any ongoing energy, water and greenhouse gas emission control efforts being pursued by federal facilities.

How is EO 13834 Different?

EO 13834 imposes a net burden on the facility energy management strategies currently being promoted by facilities. For example, at present, in compliance with previous EO 13693, facilities are fully invested in and are working hard to implement projects that will enable long-term energy consumption reduction (2.5% over 10 years based on a 2015 baseline) and potable water consumption reduction (2% over 18 years based on a 2007 baseline).  However, the new EO requires only minimum compliance with statutory guidelines without stating targeted goals, leaving it up to agencies to determine them.  Moreover, the EO lacks critical criteria related to timelines, percentage reductions of energy/water/solid waste, and percent goals related to renewable energy production. This means that facilities, especially hospitals and data centers, will struggle to assign appropriate resources moving forward.

EO 13834 also appears to allow the head of the agency to use his or her discretion in the implementation of proposed requirements. Given previous successes in this area, agency leaders will hopefully recognize that opportunities for infrastructure efficiency and cost savings are plentiful at installations where utility rates may be high, and a wide variety of renewable energy measures are abundantly available.

Although EO 13834 encourages use of energy service performance contracts (ESPCs) at installations, it does not mention the effective life cycle cost (LCC) approach, which enables rapid implementation of low-cost/no-cost short-term sustainable measures.  It’s important to note that the use of an LCC methodology would allow ESPCs to implement sustainable strategies and operations without compromising cybersecurity.

‘Fixing’ What’s Not Broken

If our end goal is to reduce energy/water use intensity (EWUI) and increase renewable energy generation, we are presently on course. Federal agencies are seeing success in their efforts to conserve resources and generate renewable energy for the future. Furthermore, market forces are driving companies to try to innovate and manufacture cheaper bio fuels, solar panels, and wind turbines – and they are delivering! Agency leaders have the latitude under the new EO to elect to continue efforts that reflect this progressive path.

Our nation is built on continuous innovation and measures that help fuel sustainable growth are a part of that long tradition of practical creativity.  As such, NIKA’s energy engineering experts recommend performing a careful review of the new policy recommendations and a thorough evaluation of how current sustainability practices may be leveraged under the new executive order.

Bookmark NIKA’s blog for reviews of future directives/clarifications related to EO 13834 and other sustainability issues, as well as informed analysis and predictions. In the meantime, readers are encouraged to contact author Alok Kumar, PE, EMP, Director of Energy Services, at akumar@nikasolutions.com with questions and comments.