DOE proposes rule to electrify all federal new or newly renovated federal buildings

Published on December 09, 2022 by Dave Kovaleski

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) proposed a rule this week to electrify new or newly renovated federal buildings as a means to cut emissions.

Starting in 2025, these facilities will be required to reduce their on-site emissions associated with the energy consumption of the building by 90 percent relative to 2003 levels. By 2030, the goal is to fully decarbonize the on-site emissions in new federal buildings and major renovations. This is part of the Biden Administration’s goal of having net-zero emissions in all federal buildings by 2045.

“Ridding pollution from our buildings and adopting clean electricity are some of the most cost-effective and future-oriented solutions we have to combat climate change,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said. “For the first time ever, DOE is establishing a firm timetable to reduce the government’s carbon footprint in new and existing federal facilities—ensuring the Biden-Harris Administration is leading by example in the effort to reach the nation’s ambitious climate goals.”

Over the next 30 years, the new rule would reduce carbon emissions from federal buildings by 1.86 million metric tons and methane emissions by 22.8 thousand tons. Further, the DOE estimates that the new emission reduction requirements would save taxpayers $8 million annually in upfront equipment costs.

Fossil fuels used in federal buildings account for over 25 percent of all federal emissions, the administration said. The new rule will accelerate the electrification of the federal building by phasing out on-site fossil-fuel usage for end-uses such as heating and water heating. However, the rule will not penalize agencies for using fossil fuels to conduct mission-critical activities such as national security. Also, the DOE has established a petition process that will address concerns relating to technical feasibility for specific applications within a given building and climate zone.

DOE will solicit comments in the coming weeks on the new rule from all entities that may be affected.

The American Gas Association has already weighed in on the proposed rule, voicing its displeasure.

“Eliminating natural gas in federal buildings is an impractical, unscientific, and expensive idea that will have no environmental benefit. In reality, the demand for electricity fueled by natural gas will only increase, and the costs will be borne by every taxpayer. Today, 187 million Americans use natural gas in their homes every day, more people than voted in the last election. According to the Department of Energy, natural gas is 3.4 times more affordable than electricity to heat buildings, including federal offices, and significantly more affordable than several other energy sources for the same amount of energy delivered,” AGA president and CEO Karen Harbert said.

Harbert said the AGA will evaluate the proposal and participate in the public comment process.

On Jan. 5, 2023, DOE will host a webinar on the scope of the rule and the proposed implementation timeline.