Energy restructuring and other market forces have become driversfor the federal government’s almost decade-old effort to greatlyreduce Uncle Sam’s overall $4 billion utility bill, the director ofthe Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) told an industryaudience gathered last week in a Los Angeles suburb. As a result,the feds this year should meet their goal set in 1993 to reduceoverall federal facility energy use by 20%, said FEMP Director BethShearer.

Shearer told an audience of public sector facility managers andenergy service contractor representatives that the revised approachby FEMP now concentrates on supply-side energy management as wellas the more traditional concentration on demand-side energyefficiency measures. Consequently a growing list of ESCos andutilities are getting into the multi-million-dollar performancecontracting market with federal facility operators.

“Electricity restructuring is a driver for all of us – whetherin government or private industry,” Shearer said. “It has been avery personal driver for me at FEMP (in the federal energydepartment) because our new mission statement talks about managingour utility costs. Now we’re looking at the development ofstrategies on the supply side to cover energy purchasing. We haveto look at both reliability and price issues now and see them asdrivers.”

As the nation’s largest energy consumer, the 500,000 federalbuildings are the nation’s largest electricity buyer (2% of theU.S. electricity is consumed by the feds). Its total energy billfor buildings and transportation tops $8 billion annually. The FEMPprogram claims to have reduced the overall energy use by 19.2%since 1992. Subsequent executive orders from the White House haveupped the ante to 35% by 2010.

FEMP’s program has meant a savings of about $750 millionannually for federal facilities, Shearer said. Five years ago, shenoted, the federal facilities’ collective utility bill was $4billion annual; it is now $3.65 billion. “We’re spending less moneyoverall on utilities today than we did five years ago.”

Also responding to market changes, Shearer said there is anongoing effort to put more of the FEMP and related energymanagement programs on the Internet where information, products andservices can be available to facility operators in both thegovernmental and private sectors.

A facility manager from sprawling Camp Pendleton Marine Base inSouthern California expressed some skepticism in response toShearer regarding the bureaucratic barriers he sees bogging downthe FEMP effort.

“We’ve been doing this for seven years, and we are probably amodel for other federal agencies,” the manager said. “We’ve donelighting retrofits, heating/cooling retrofits and we’re trying tosqueeze every nickel and dime off the other agencies, but in doingthat we run into the barriers of various federal regulations andprocedures. It makes it very difficult for us to meet eye-to-eyewith utilities to get things done.”

The military base facility manager said the FEMP program needsto be made easier for the agencies to use. “A lot of people arereluctant to use it because it is so difficult.”

Shearer did not deny that her programs run into bureaucraticbarriers, but she did say the problems are being addressed and theadded wed-based services on the Internet can help. Also energyefficiency improvements are one of President Clinton’s 24initiatives for the federal agencies to focus on this year, shesaid.

Shearer and other public sector energy officials were speakersat a one-day workshop sponsored jointly by FEMP and SouthernCalifornia Gas Co. at the gas utility’s Energy Resource Center.

Richard Nemec, Los Angeles

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