In the wake of the pandemic, the environmental movement keeps gaining momentum on the geopolitical stage. This month, the US General Services Administration (GSA) took a big step forward in its National Deep Energy Retrofit Program, issuing its largest-ever notice of opportunity by redirecting funds from the Inflation Reduction Act for a series of projects across five states and the District of Columbia.
These initiatives are part of a broader strategy designed to help meet President Biden's climate targets, specifically the goal of achieving net-zero emissions across all federal buildings by 2045. The GSA, managing an extensive real estate portfolio of nearly 370 million rentable square feet across the nation, plays a pivotal role in its success. Alongside managing this significant property portfolio, the GSA also oversees ~$75 billion in annual contracts and provides technology services to a wide array of federal agencies, reaching millions of citizens.
“This historic call for proposals is another example of how GSA is making meaningful progress towards decarbonization and net zero buildings – while delivering savings to taxpayers and a healthier future for the next generation,” said GSA Administrator, Robin Carnahan. “We’re excited to partner with innovative energy service companies to rapidly accelerate our progress toward achieving a net zero federal footprint – and create good-paying jobs along the way.”
The GSA revealed its plans to use funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to propel building efficiency and cost-saving enhancements in 41 facilities through Energy Savings Performance Contracts. These facilities are spread across the country with 17 located in the DC area and the remaining 24 scattered throughout Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The projects, collectively worth over $300 million, aim to transition facilities from a dependency on onsite fossil fuels equipment to a more environmentally friendly all-electric infrastructure, providing a pathway towards net-zero operations.
Integral to the White House’s Climate Smart Buildings Initiative, the GSA's National Deep Energy Retrofit program aims to refurbish federal buildings with an emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and curbing site energy consumption. This initiative targets extensive renovations to optimize energy use reductions onsite. These progressive projects align with GSA's efforts to comply with the recently unveiled Federal Building Performance Standard, a key step towards converting buildings to all-electric infrastructure, eliminating the use of onsite fossil fuel combustion in equipment.
At Memoori, we covered the net zero retrofit of the GSA’s Wayne Aspinall Federal Building in Grand Junction, Colorado, as part of our new Net Zero Buildings Series. The heritage building was GSA’s first net-zero energy building on the National Register of Historic Places, achieved LEED Platinum, an AIA COTE Top 10 Award, and continues to be an example of how historic buildings can create opportunities for innovation, rather than be a barrier to performance. In the series, we have covered many types of buildings around the world to understand the technical, economic, and political factors required for building efficiency development.
Building Efficiency in the EU
In the EU, where 75% of building stock is inefficient and strong historic preservation is a double-edged sword when considering energy efficiency, the key program is the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive. Established in 2012 and amended in 2018, the directive sets rules and obligations to meet the union’s 2030 energy efficiency targets. When the European Commission (EC) launched the European Green Deal in December 2019, the EU further increased its climate ambition and has stated it aims to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
Then, in March 2023, the European Commission, Parliament, and Council made a joint agreement to reform and strengthen the EU Energy Efficiency Directive, making a further step in the completion of the ‘Fit for 55′ package to deliver the European Green Deal and the REPowerEU plan, which was launched In response to the hardships and global energy market disruption caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. REPowerEU is already responsible for a 20% reduction in energy consumption and a doubling of renewable deployment.
“Saving energy is a key step to saving the planet,” Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, said. “In recent months, Europeans have shown that they are ready and able to face this challenge, and our industry has proven that it can optimize its energy use and production processes. We now need energy efficiency to become an even more systemic part of our society, and this revised directive helps us to do that.”
Under the provisional deal, the annual energy savings obligation nearly doubles to ensure continual progress. EU countries will be required to achieve new savings each year of 1.49% of final energy consumption on average, and will gradually have to reach 1.9% by the end of 2030. According to the EC, this is the first time that an energy efficiency first principle is given legal strength with a clear requirement for EU countries to apply energy efficiency in policy, planning, and major investment decisions across their economies.
The US and EU have both finally begun to prioritize building efficiency to start addressing That 40% Statistic, while also hopefully tackling the barriers preventing the further growth of renewable generation on the other side of the energy equation. The EU has long played a strong role for the environment in global politics and, while Australisia will probably snatch the first net zero continent crown, Europe will continue to lead the environmental movement on a continental level —for green reasons, but also for energy security and independence.
“Energy efficiency is key for achieving the full decarbonisation of the EU’s economy and independence from Russian fossil fuels,” states Kadri Simson, EU Commissioner for Energy. “A stronger EU framework on energy efficiency will help us stay the course to reach our 2030 energy and climate goals. It can also be an important driver for competitiveness and strengthen the security of supply. The new provisions on consumer empowerment and energy poverty will ensure that our clean energy transition is accessible to all, including the most vulnerable.”