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Federal Agencies Scramble to Meet Renewables Target

August 24, 2015 By Linda Hardesty

NRELUnder a goal established in March by Executive Order 13693, titled “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade,” US federal agencies have until 2025 to get at least 30 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. That trumps the 20 percent target established in a 2009 presidential memorandum.

Currently, only 8.8 percent of electricity used by the federal government comes from renewable sources, according to the Energy Department. On a per-agency basis, this amount fluctuates wildly, from as little as 0.2 percent at the Postal Service to as much as 105 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The executive order did not include an influx of additional funds. Instead, federal agencies can tap into private-sector financing options such as power purchase agreements (PPAs).

Agencies working to come closer to the 30 percent target are also being encouraged to take advantage of the REopt tool developed at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), according to an NREL article. REopt (Renewable Energy Optimization) is an energy-planning platform that shows agencies which renewable energy projects make the most economic or technical sense for a building or site, and helps them prioritize how to meet energy targets.

How well federal agencies are progressing toward their goals is measured and reported annually to the Office of Management and Budget. In their quest to use renewable energy, federal agencies can’t spend more than they would if they purchased utility power.

The Department of Defense uses far more energy than any other federal agency and also relies on renewables the most, according to the NREL article. About 1.5 million MWh of the DOD’s energy came from renewables in Fiscal Year 2013, but that accounted for only 6.2 percent of the 30 million MWh the agency used that year.

The Navy, which intended to have half of its onshore energy needs met by alternative sources by 2020, moved up its target and will procure or produce a gigawatt of renewable energy by the end of this year. The Navy last year created the Renewable Energy Program Office (REPO) to identify cost-effective renewable energy offices.

Last week, the Navy signed a 25-year PPA for 210 MW of solar to provide a third of the power needed for 14 Navy and Marine Corps installations in California.

Photo of NREL researchers, from left, Andy Walker, Kate Anderson, and Marguerite Kelly.

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