Last month, President Biden signed an executive order that calls for reduced emissions across federal operations, investments in clean energy and creation of "clean, healthy and resilient communities." The order outlined several ambitious goals, directing the federal government to use its "scale and procurement power" to achieve 100% carbon pollution-free electricity (CFE) by 2030, at least half of which will be locally supplied clean energy. Another goal was for the federal government portfolio of more than 300,000 buildings to reach net-zero emissions by 2045, including a 50% reduction in building emissions by 2032. The administration will also implement the first-ever Federal Building Performance Standard.
According to Smart Buildings Technology, the way to achieve these goals is new construction and major renovation of all federal properties to increase water and energy efficiency, reduce waste, electrify systems, and promote sustainable locations. "As the federal government moves forward with this initiative, there’s no doubt that smart building technologies will play an integral role in achieving net-zero emissions across the portfolio," wrote Betsy Conroy for Smart Buildings Technology.
Lawrence Melton, founder and CEO of The Building People who was previously responsible for more than 350 million square feet of federal real estate and implementing the largest smart buildings program in the country, spoke to Smart Building Technology about the order: “While some of the goals in the latest executive order are tough to meet, they are analogous to ESG goals that nearly every Fortune 500 company has today. There is large backlog of deferred maintenance across government facilities, limited funding, and a massive portfolio where the average age of buildings is about 35 years old. If ever we had a time to get creative, now is the time.”
Some ways that The Building People get creative is to first look for efficiency opportunities within existing systems and prioritize efforts based on the largest energy consumers, according to the article.
Utilities are on the hook to achieve the 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2030 (at least half of which will be locally supplied clean energy to meet 24/7 demand). The order states that the federal government will work with utilities, developers, technology firms, financiers, and others to purchase electricity produced from resources that generate no carbon emissions, including solar and wind. These efforts are already underway.
Digital power technologies like DC microgrids have long been on the federal government’s radar and have been tested extensively in facilities like the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, according to Smart Buildings Technology. “Nobody has installed more DC microgrids that the U.S. Army, and these investments are considered the crown jewel,” said Trevor Morrison, vice president of energy, smart buildings and sustainability services for The Building People. “There are a number of test beds that only exist in the federal space, and they have the labs and programs to validate these types of technologies.”
DC power delivery into and throughout the building is an ideal way for the federal government to also achieve energy consumption goals, according to the Smart Buildings Technology interview with Bob Cicero, America's smart building leader at Cisco. “Whenever we’re deploying solar or wind that generates DC power, or even emerging micro power sources like window film that generates power, we’re typically converting it to AC and then back to DC for many of the everyday devices we see around the office—laptops, LED lights, cell phones—and that conversion creates significant energy losses,” he says. “With a DC microgrid, we may need to step down power to lower levels, but it’s still going to be much more efficient than AC power. That’s why a lot is pivoting to DC power, including how Cisco network switches are powered.”
Conroy writes that for those wondering if executive orders like this and others from the Biden administration will change with new administrations, executive orders come with every administration, and most stay in play. “Some of the most aggressive goals that we’re still continuing to meet were implemented by George W. Bush in his 2007 executive order 13423 that required federal buildings to reduce energy consumption by 30%," said The Building People's Melton.
The article referenced in this story originally ran as "What role will smart building technology play in Biden’s executive order on federal building sustainability?" on Smart Buildings Technology, an Endeavor Business Media partner site.