Obama signs executive order to reduce federal GHG emissions

By Erin Voegele | March 19, 2015

President Obama has signed an executive order focused on planning for federal sustainability in the next decade. Renewable energy targets and compliance with the USDA’s BioPreferred program are among the issues addressed in the executive order, which was published on March 19.

The sustainability plan directs federal agencies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 percent by 2025. Beginning in fiscal year 2016, the head of each federal agency is directed to promote building energy conservation, efficiency and management through a variety of specific steps. In addition the head of each federal agency is directed to ensure that a minimum percentage of total building electric energy and thermal energy be clean energy, accounted for by renewable electric energy and alternative energy. The requirement is set at 10 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2016 and 2017, 13 percent in FY 2018 and 2019, 16 percent in FY 2020 and 2021, 20 percent in FY 2022 and 2023 and 25 percent by FY 2025 and thereafter. In addition, the executive order sets a minimum percentage for the total amount of building electric energy consumed by the agency that is renewable energy. That requirements scales up from 10 percent if FY 2016 and 2017, to 15 percent in FY 2018 and 2019, 20 percent in FY 2020 and 2021, 25 percent in FY 2022 and 2023, and 30 percent by FY 2025 and thereafter.

The executive order also explains that compliance with above targets can be met in several ways, including the installation of renewable energy systems onsite at federal facilities to produce electricity and/or thermal energy and retaining or obtaining renewable energy credits (RECs), contracting for the purchase of energy that includes installation of renewable energy onsite, installing combined-heat-and-power (CHP) systems onsite at federal facilities, and several others.

Regarding sustainable acquisition and procurement, the executive order calls for all federal agencies to meet statutory mandates that require purchase preference for recycled content products designated by the U.S. EPA, energy and water efficient products identified by the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy, and BioPreferred and biobased designated products designated by the USDA. The executive order indicates that until an agency achieves at least 95 percent compliance with the BioPreferred and biobased purchasing requirement, an annual target is to be established for the number of contracts to be awarded with BioPreferred and biobased criteria and dollar value of BioPreferred and biobased products to be delivered and reported under those contracts the following fiscal year. In addition, agencies are directed to ensure contractors submit timely annual reports of their BioPreferred and biobased purchases.  

The executive order also addresses water use, motor vehicle fleets, new building design, and several other factors. A full copy of the executive order can be downloaded from the White House website.