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Climate Change Blog

EPA’s Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan to Reduce Agency Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In the fifth post of our series on federal agency Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans (“SSPPs”), we discuss EPA’s plan to achieve the environmental and sustainability goals associated with President Obama’s March 2015 executive order 13693. As explained in the initial post on this topic, the goals of the executive order include a target to reduce overall greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions from federal agencies by at least 40 percent by 2025. Published in June 2015, EPA’s SSPP incorporates a number of ongoing Agency strategies for integrating GHG emissions reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable buildings, water conservation, and other efforts. According to EPA, the Agency achieved or surpassed nearly all federal sustainability goals established by previous executive orders 13514 and 13423 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and it has plans in place to achieve the goals set in executive order 13693.

EPA’s top ten sustainable performance strategies focus on GHG reduction, sustainable buildings, renewable energy, water use efficiency and management, fleet management, sustainable acquisitions, pollution prevention and waste reduction, energy performance contracts, electronic stewardship and data centers, and climate change resilience. Below are the climate-change focused SSPP goals as well as EPA’s strategies and challenges to meeting those goals.

Goals and Actions

GHG Emission Reduction

  • EPA has already reduced Scope 1 (direct GHG emissions from sources owned or controlled by EPA), Scope 2 (GHG emissions from generation of electricity, steam, or heat purchased by EPA), and Scope 3 GHG emissions (GHG sources not owned or directly controlled by EPA) by almost 60% for Scope 1 and 2 and 46% for Scope 3 below their 2008 baselines in 2014—beating the emissions reduction goal of 25% by 2025.
  • EPA expects to make further progress in reducing its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions as a result of implementing energy conservation projects, consolidating laboratory infrastructure, and continuing its investment in green power and renewable energy credits.
  • EPA anticipates reducing its Scope 3 emissions through its office consolidation efforts. This includes the continuance of its telework program, which decreases GHG emissions because employees commute to work less frequently.

Renewable Energy

  • The executive order calls for agency buildings to obtain 30 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2025. According to EPA, in 2006 it became the first federal agency to purchase green power equivalent to 100% of the Agency’s estimated annual energy use. In the upcoming year it will continue to purchase renewable energy credits (“RECs”) and other forms of green power, including plans to complete a REC purchase with DLA Energy.
  • In 2014, onsite renewable energy resources supplied EPA with 5.3 billion British thermal units, which is 0.43 percent of the Agency’s annual energy use. The Agency continues to pursue onsite renewable energy projects such as installation of a 1.5 megawatt solar array at its Edison, New Jersey laboratory in 2016. 

Fleet Management

  • The executive order requires agencies to develop fleet efficiency management tools within two years of the order and to reduce fleet-wide per-mile GHG emissions relative to 2014 baseline emissions by 4 percent by 2017, 15 percent by 2021, and 30 percent by 2025. In addition, zero emission or hybrid vehicles must account for 20 percent of all new agency passenger vehicle acquisitions by 2020 and 50 percent of such vehicles by 2025.
  • The EPA reduced its fleet-wide petroleum consumption by 44 percent from 2005 to 2014. The value of this reduction may be limited by the fact that the Agency has steadily reduced its fleet size down to only 1,007 vehicles in 2014. To comply with the new requirements of the executive order, EPA is acquiring zero-emission and hybrid electric vehicles and has already met the requirements to fully integrate fleet data into the Agency fleet management information system, the Federal Automotive Statistical Tool, FleetDASH, and the Federal Motor Vehicle Registration System.

 

EPA 2015 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, June 20, 2015

Climate Change Resilience

  • The executive order calls on the agencies to improve building efficiency, performance, and management through “the incorporation of climate-resilient design and managements elements into the operation, repair, and renovation of existing agency buildings and the design of new agency buildings.”
  • EPA developed and is now implementing an Agency wide Climate Change Adaptation Plan and released 17 Climate Change Adaptation Implementation Plans prepared by its National Environmental Program Offices, its 10 regional offices, and several of its National Support Offices. In addition to EPA’s adaptation plans, the SSPP outlines goals and achievements related to these measures, including developing tools to support climate adaptation planning and implementing a continuity of operations plan to address natural disasters that could interrupt Agency operations.
  • In 2015, EPA conducted climate resiliency tests at several of its laboratories to assess facility-specific vulnerabilities to severe weather events and determine ways to enhance facility resilience.

Challenges

EPA found that having a pipeline of established facility specific energy and water conservation projects has assisted the Agency with achieving and often exceeding its facility sustainability goals. However, EPA’s ability to design and fund many of the major projects that are necessary to continue to meet the increasingly stringent performance requirements is hindered by funding constraints. Previously, EPA has focused on the low hanging fruit—lower cost projects with the highest return on investment—but the Agency believes it now must focus on more resource-intensive projects to meet the federal goals going forward.

EPA cites to the lack of funding for energy conservation measures, sustainable building improvement projects, and space consolidation projects as the biggest obstacles to achieving its facility GHG reduction, energy efficiency, and water conservation goals. The Agency is seeking innovative ways to fund major projects so it can continue to meet its goals and realize additional savings.

Posted at 01/06/2016 10:06 AM

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