The federal government is the largest single energy consuming organization in the United States. In 2009, the federal government used 1,095.7 trillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) of energy. To put that into perspective, if that were only electricity at an average rate of $0.125 per kilowatt-hour (kwh), that would cost taxpayers $40.1 Billion. With those staggering numbers, many Americans are wondering what the federal government is doing to reduce energy consumption and save tax dollars.
This story is part of the ‘Energy Efficient Government’ article series aimed at independently identifying which federal organizations are focused on saving energy and which ones have room for improvement.
In this article, we will highlight what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is doing to save energy and promote energy efficiency.
The Department of Veterans Affairs operates hospitals, outpatient clinics, veteran service centers, and other administrative facilities throughout the United States in order to provide essential services for veterans of the United States military. In 2009, the VA was responsible for 9,220 buildings totaling 156,344,000 square feet of federal building inventory. During that time, the VA consumed 29.9 trillion BTUs of energy, making them the 3rd largest, non-defense user of energy in the federal government.
Taking a close look at the VA’s Water and Energy Management Program, it appears to stand out among the other federal government programs. The VA’s program, on the surface, speaks the usual rhetoric of focusing on a broad array of energy conservation topics. But, while many organizations are currently only doing the bare minimum necessary to meet federal mandates, it appears that the VA has internalized the idea that saving energy can be good for business. The VA goes above and beyond with their program by focusing on two critical areas: efficiency upgrades and renewable energy.
Energy demand will continue to grow throughout the world, and organizations with high energy demand will be vulnerable to energy price shifts. Efficiency upgrades in existing facilities, along with a heavy focus on efficient new construction, help to reduce that demand and the risk associated with it.
In an organization like the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has a building inventory with some buildings dating back to the VA’s official establishment in the 1930s, it is important to identify inefficiencies in those older buildings and make them more efficient. The VA is doing just that. In 2010, the VA funded 366 efficiency upgrade projects.
Another important factor in energy sustainability and security is the source of energy being used. If an organization relies heavily on unstable energy sources, like oil or natural gas, then they are at the mercy of the providers of those products.
By shifting toward renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy, the Department of Veterans Affairs is reducing its overall risk of energy market manipulation. In 2010, the VA funded 28 renewable energy projects, which will provide 307.7 megawatts (MW) of power generation capability.
Other Program Areas
In addition to efficiency improvements and renewable energy acquisition, the VA has established a comprehensive program that covers many of the most important areas in energy conservation: 1) They conduct ongoing energy and water assessments to identify opportunities. 2) They also commission their facilities every four years to ensure all equipment is operating correctly and efficiently. 3) Finally, the VA monitors its energy consumption and performance both through metering of its buildings and by using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager provided by the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency.
It appears VA has a sound energy conservation program and they should be applauded for their efforts to reduce energy-related overhead and risk. They are helping to make our federal government more sustainable and reducing costs. VA receives two thumbs up from this energy conservation professional.
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