Federal Energy Efficient Product Procurement

By running more efficient lighting, appliances and equipment, federal agencies can cut energy costs, devote more resources to their core missions and operate more sustainably. Meeting these economic and environmental challenges often comes down to what products we buy. Federal agencies have been encouraged or required to buy energy efficient products since the 1970s. Berkeley Lab’s Sustainable Operations (SO) Group studies the dynamics of markets for clean energy technologies, aids federal agencies in meeting their requirements and quantifies the impacts of those procurements.

Our research focuses on: 

  • Strategies for enhancing uptake of energy efficient products in the public sector
  • Pathways and barriers to increasing compliance with federal procurement mandates
  • Economic and environmental impacts of purchasing energy efficient products

Learn more about our work and the federal government's pursuit of greater energy efficiency: iStock-861599616.jpg

Background 

For 30 years, Berkeley Lab and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have worked to increase federal procurement of energy-efficient technologies. In aggregate, the federal government is the largest U.S. purchaser of energy consuming products. It thus represents large potential for cost savings, reduction of environmental impacts and influence over the availability and price of efficient products for households and businesses. In a recent study, we found that full compliance with federal requirements for buying energy efficient products would achieve more than $300 million dollars in energy savings annually and avoid roughly a million tons of CO2e emissions.

Federal Energy management program logo

The SO Group works with the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) to realize those savings by addressing the challenges that federal agencies face in procuring energy efficient products. We educate and assist federal agencies with market assessments, training, impact evaluations and direct technical support.

 

Federal Purchasing Requirements

ENERGY STAR logoWhen buying energy-consuming products and services, federal agencies are required by law to buy products that are energy efficient. Federal acquisition regulations, most recently FAR Clause 52.223-15, require that any energy-consuming products bear the ENERGY STAR label or are designated by DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) as being in the upper 25% of energy performance among similar products.

These laws and regulations date back to the energy crisis of the 1970s. Congress has strengthened those mandates over the decades, and the executive branch has reinforced and provided guidance on achieving those mandates through regulations and executive orders (EOs), most recently EO 13990 on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis and EO 14008 on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. 

Through EO 13990, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced a policy of improving public health, protecting the environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions while creating jobs and ensuring environmental justice. With respect to federal agencies and their acquisition decisions, the president specifically ordered federal agencies to:

  • Review all recent federal regulations, policies and orders and rescind, revise or suspend any that are inconsistent with protecting the environment, reducing greenhouse gases and ensuring environmental justice, with special attention to those regulations and orders bearing on:
    • Cost-benefit analyses for federal energy and climate actions
    • Energy performance standards for appliances and consumer products and building energy codes
  • Account for climate benefits in federal policies and actions, in part by developing estimates for monetizing the value of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through avoided climate damages.

Through EO 14008, President Biden additionally put forward a policy "to organize and deploy the full capacity of its agencies to combat the climate crisis to implement a Government-wide approach that reduces climate pollution in every sector of the economy; increases resilience to the impacts of climate change; protects public health; conserves our lands, waters, and biodiversity; delivers environmental justice; and spurs well-paying union jobs and economic growth, especially through innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure."

Specifically, the order tasks all federal agencies with:

  • Developing a comprehensive plan to create good jobs and stimulate clean energy industries by revitalizing the federal government's sustainability efforts. The plan "shall aim to use...all available procurement authorities to achieve...a carbon pollution-free electricity sector no later than 2035"
  • Identify opportunities for federal funding to spur innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure
  • Developing and implementing action plans within 120 days for using "the power of procurement to increase the energy and water efficiency tof United States Government installations, buildings, and facilities and ensure they are climate-ready. Agencies shall consider the feasibility of using the purchasing power of the Federal Government to drive innovation, and shall seek to increase the Federal Government's resilience against supply chain disruptions." Annual progress reports are required.

Key legal authorities and associated federal and Berkeley Lab responses are illustrated in the timeline below.

timeline legend for "Laws and Policies" "Federal Milestones" "LBNL Milestones"

Purchasing Support Tools

Our resources and tools help federal and state agencies meet energy efficiency purchasing requirements. We provide:

FEMP's energy efficient cover product category tool

Contact team members below by email or reach out to the group directly for any program-related questions at SustainableFedOps@lbl.gov

Solicitation Reviews

The SO Group reviews federal solicitations for the supply of products to assess compliance and identify obstacles with purchasing energy efficient products. Our reviews focus on the inclusion of FAR Clause 52.223-15, as well as additional language that emphasizes the desire for energy efficiency products. We conduct both automated and manual reviews of federal solicitations and classify compliance as shown below. 

Representation of non-compliant, FAR-compliant, effective compliant and descriptions

We review solicitations for all energy consuming products and sort them into three categories based on the information they provide: non-compliant, FAR compliant or effective compliant. Non-compliant solicitations have no mention of energy efficiency or efficiency requirements while effective compliant solicitations are more explicit and more likely to result in purchases of energy efficient products. Federal effective compliance rates vary by the nature of the contracting arrangement.

Aggregated Compliance Rates for Direct and Indirect Solicitations (1)_0.png

The graph to the right shows effective compliance rates from FY15 to FY20 for all direct solicitations (blue) and separately, effective compliance rates for all relevant indirect solicitations (green). Direct solicitations are federal requests for vendors to bid on supplying products to the government. With indirect solicitations, a contractor is empowered to acquire a product on behalf of the government (e.g., through a maintenance contract).

Our reviews indicate that federal agencies sometimes overlook or otherwise miss opportunities to include language that specifies energy efficient products in indirect solicitations, hence the comparatively lower compliance rates for indirect solicitations shown in the graph. 

Federal agency FAR-compliant rates for meeting requirements on purchasing energy efficient products vary both among and within those agencies. The graph below shows the number of compliant solicitations in federal agencies differs depending on the department. 

chart_0.jpg

When we further explored agency-level compliance, we found that even offices within agencies had a high level of variability with FAR-compliant rates. The chart below shows the FAR-compliant rates for offices grouped within different federal agencies. 

By understanding the nuances behind current compliance rates, we can evaluate the impact of federal law, implementation policy and our own efforts on reaching federal energy saving goals.

~$310 million annually, 230,000 equivalent home usage GHG savings, increased innovation and availability

Berkeley Lab has published multiple studies reporting significant energy cost savings and GHG emission reductions the federal government can achieve by complying with energy efficiency requirements. The latest analysis by the SO Group estimates that by fully complying with energy efficiency purchasing requirements, the federal government can see overall operational cost savings of about $310 million and 1.3 million CO2 equivalent metric tons of emissions saved every year.

chart.png

Since the start of the century, the federal government could have saved $4.8B by fully complying with federal energy efficient purchasing requirements. The SO Group will continue to work to evaluate the impact energy efficient product procurement can have within the federal government in the coming years. 

Publications

The SO Group has contributed a large collection of studies, reports, and training around energy efficient product procurement. Many of our resources are intended for federal agencies but can be applicable for other public and private organizations.

Identifying Institutional Barriers and Policy Implications for Sustainable Energy Technology Adoption Among Large Organizations in California (2020). Wang, Liyang, Morabito, M., Payne, C., Robinson, G.. Payne, Robinson.

This exploratory study looks to better understand the processes through which large organizations purchase sustainable energy technologies and what challenges they experience during that process.

Messaging for Impact: Behavioral Science-Based Communication Strategies to Advance Energy Efficiency - (2020). Chalasani, Sravan, Johnson, C., Morabito, M., et al.

In this behavioral study, we measure the effectiveness of various communication strategies by measuring responses to different messages in our digital communications. 

Contracting for Efficiency: A Best Practices Guide for Energy-Efficient Product Procurement. (2019). Murrell, Jeff. Payne, Christopher.

A best practices guide for federal agencies and others on how to include energy efficiency requirements in contracting language. This guide explains the benefits of purchasing efficient equipment, provides a list of covered product categories, and provides in-depth sample contract language. 

Changing Institutional Procurement Behavior to Achieve Energy Savings, (2018). Wang, Liyang &, Payne, C.

Statutes and regulations require federal purchasing of energy-efficient products, yet federal buyers do not typically request energy-efficient products when making purchases. This paper analyzes the impact of efforts by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) to increase compliance with those requirements. 

Lighting Energy Efficiency: 2017 Update and Impacts - (2018). Siap, David, Payne, C., & Lekov, A.

This paper documents the methodology used to develop the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) lighting efficiency requirements for the 2017 FEMP lighting update. This methodology for calculating the total benefits presented goes beyond site energy saved, and includes full fuel cycle energy savings, energy cost savings, emissions offset and monetized emissions costs. 

From Policy to Compliance: Federal Energy Efficient Product Procurement, (2015). Scodel and DeMates

This report analyzes federal agency compliance with energy efficient product procurement requirements.

Guide to Promoting an Energy Efficient Public Sector (PePS) - (2015). Coleman, Phillip.

This guide provides a detailed look at strategies and success stories for government action on energy efficiency. Existing buildings and new construction, purchasing policies, public infrastructure, and public transportation all provide opportunities for governments to make progress on efficiency. Further guidance is provided within the document. 

Evolution of Energy Efficiency Programs Over Time: The Case of Standby Power - (2014). Payne, Christopher T., Cheung, H.Y. Iris, & Fisher, Emily

This paper works to answer the question of "How we design programs over time to reflect market and technology changes, by adjusting programmatic requirements while maintaining effectiveness?" This paper discusses that question for the case of standby power, which transitioned from covering a single to multiple environmental attributes, both in the context of the program's past and future.

Energy-Efficient Public Procurement Best Practice in Program Delivery SEAD Initiative Procurement Working Group - (2013). Payne, Christopher T., Weber, Andrew R., & Semple, Abby

This paper outlines best practices for energy-efficient public procurement. 

Linking Resources and Structures: Increasing the Effectiveness of Energy Efficient Government Procurement Programs - (2012). Weber, Andrew R., Payne, Christopher T.

This report looks at the low compliance rates of government requirements regarding the procurement of energy-efficient products and provides points on where compliance might be improved. The report analyzes trends with implementing sustainable acquisition programs and provides a discussion on where barriers to high rates of compliance might be addressed. 

Achieved and Potential Energy Savings through Energy Efficient Procurement - (2012). Fujita, K. Sydney, Taylor, Margaret

This paper provides an in-depth analysis of potential energy savings in the federal government based on complying with federal energy efficient product requirements. The papers take a deep dive into the methodology used for the analysis and provide projections for different scenarios with varying compliance rates, at different agencies, and for different products.  

Evidence-Based Background Material Underlying Guidance for Federal Agencies in Implementing Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans Implementing Sustainability: The Institutional-Behavioral Dimension - (2011). L. Malone, Elizabeth, Sanquist, Tom, Wolfe

This paper provides guidance for federal agencies as they seek to shift towards more sustainable practices. The paper introduces the five-step framework for institutional change and how it can be applied along with the eight principles of social science for human and organizational behavior change. 

Leveraging Procurement to Achieve Energy Savings - (2019). Federal Environmental Symposium L. Wang, S. Chalasani, M. Morabito

This presentation walks through the SO Group’s involvement with federal energy efficiency requirements, providing energy and cost saving analysis projections, and conducting research on compliance among federal agencies. 

Energy-Efficient Product Procurement | WBDG - Payne, Christopher T., Sahl, Amanda

This 1.5hr on-demand training is hosted by the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) and targeted towards helping agencies meet federal requirements on purchasing FEMP-designated and ENERGY STAR products. 

Participants who complete the course are eligible to receive:

IACET_Accredited_Provider.jpgFEMP IACET: 0.2 CEU

Sustainable Acquisition for Federal Agencies | WBDG - Fardanesh, Shabnam, Cannon, Sandra

This 2hr on-demand training is hosted by the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) and helps staff through the process of sustainable procurement.

Participants who complete the course are eligible to receive:

download.jpgIACET_Accredited_Provider.jpgFEMP IACET: 0.2 CEU

AIA Learning Units: 2.0 LU | HSW

USGBC GBCI: 2.0 CE LEED Category: Materials and Resources

Contracting for Efficiency | WBDG - Payne, Christopher T.

This 2hr on-demand training is hosted by the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) and teaches federal buyers about energy efficient product procurement and how to achieve it in the contracting process.

Participants who complete the course are eligible to receive:

download.jpgIACET_Accredited_Provider.jpgFEMP IACET: fbpta-qualified.jpg0.2 CEU

AIA Learning Units: 2.0 LU | HSW

USGBC GBCI: 2.0 CE LEED Category: Materials and Resources

FBPTA Competencies: 10.3

FEMP 2020 Contracting for Efficiency Webinar Series

This series of three webinars are broken down into topics addressing energy efficient product procurement:

Webinar 1: Introduction to Energy-Efficient Product Procurement

This webinar introduces the benefits of purchasing energy efficient products and reviews the federal requirements. 

Webinar 2: Best Practices for Energy-Efficient Contracting

This webinar walks through how to write a contract with energy efficiency requirements and provides additional information on how to ensure buyers receive energy efficient products. 

Webinar 3: Energy Efficiency in Procurement - Federal Spotlights

This webinar dives into federal case studies with speakers from different agencies talking about their experience. 

Contracting For Efficiency Comprehensive Training 

This one hour comprehensive training summarizes the three webinars in the Contracting for Efficiency Webinar series. This training will be available through the Whole Building Design Guide for Continuing education units (CEUs) in the near future. 

Deputy Division Director and Sustainable Operations Group Lead
Senior Scientific Engineering Associate
Senior Research Associate
Research Associate
Research Associate
Research Associate
Research Associate