Federal Sustainability Scorecards: An Overview of a Program ‘Leading by Example’
For the first time ever, the federal government publicly released agencies’ OMB scorecards on energy and sustainability performance. These scorecards –released on April 19, 2011– established agency benchmarks for targeting and tracking the best opportunities to improve efficiency, reduce pollution and eliminate waste.
“The Alliance applauds not only the federal government’s commitment to setting and bench marking progress toward energy and sustainability, but also its commitment to transparency exemplified by the scorecards,” Alliance President Kateri Callahan said. Callahan noted that the federal government’s transparency “allows policymakers, citizens and energy efficiency advocates like the Alliance to see exactly how much the feds are saving with energy efficiency and other sustainability measures.”
Executive Order Created Agency Benchmarks
The scorecards are a result of President Obama’s Oct. 5, 2009, Executive Order (EO) 13514, which called for agencies to “lead by example,” collect benchmark data and set energy reduction targets. The EO required federal agencies to submit a 2020 greenhouse gas pollution reduction target within 90 days, as well as to increase energy efficiency, reduce fleet petroleum consumption, conserve water and reduce waste. On April 19, 2011, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released scorecards showing the agencies’ results in Fiscal Year 2010.
Scoring Green Saves Green
Scoring “green” (the top score) on the reports means the agency has met or exceeded the requirements. A green-scoring agency also is on track for future benchmarks to save the government a cumulative $8 to $11 billion by 2020.
The scorecards already have yielded many promising results. In fact, 12 federal agencies reduced energy intensity by at least 15% in targeted facilities compared with 2003 levels (and are on track for a 30% reduction by 2015): the departments of Agriculture, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, Justice, Labor, Transportation and Treasury, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), General Services Administration (GSA), National Archives and Tennessee Valley Authority.
Of the 23 total agencies scored, over half received green grades on at least five out of seven of the benchmark categories. Additionally, the Department of the Treasury, the EPA and GSA met every performance benchmark across the board.
Improvements on Green Buildings Needed
While there was good news for most benchmarks, the federal agencies are falling short on green building standards. Only five agencies are on track to make 15% of their buildings more sustainable by 2015.
The federal government occupies nearly 500,000 buildings, according to the CEQ, and many of the buildings are old, which poses challenges for the agencies. But such hurdles can be overcome, given adequate commitment and resources, as the Alliance demonstrated this year in working with the State Department-affiliated League of Green Embassies on an energy efficiency makeover of the second-oldest U.S. diplomatic building– the 230-year-old residence of the United States’ ambassador to Belgium.