Government Buildings to Become More Grid-Responsive and Energy Efficient

Published On
Aug 16, 2021

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Golden, Colo., released a plan to help the General Services Administration (GSA) shift its huge real estate portfolio to a more grid-interactive and energy-efficient operation.

The GSA is a government agency that procures and manages office space for federal buildings. With an annual budget of a nearly $21 billion, it actually manages the largest portfolio of commercial office space in the United States. In specific, it owns and leases over 375 million square feet of space in almost 10,000 buildings in over 2,200 U.S. communities.

The document, “Blueprint for Integrating Grid-Interactive Efficient Building (GEB) Technologies into U.S. General Services Administration Performance Contracts,” was created by a team of NREL researchers.

It provides the GSA with a detailed guide to using federal energy performance contracting to transform GSA properties into GEBs. Examples of energy performance contracting include energy savings performance contracts and utility energy service contracts. These contracts provide government customers with the opportunity to finance projects that are not able to benefit from the various national, state and local energy-efficiency and renewable energy tax incentives available to private sector customers. With energy performance contracts, some or all of the energy upgrades taking place in GSA buildings would be paid for by the contractors or the utilities up-front, and the costs would then be recouped later through the energy savings that occur over the life of the project.

GEBs can interact with the electric grid, using smart technologies to reduce, shed, shift, modulate or generate electricity load as needed. They are also able to optimize their energy usage in a continuous and integrated way to provide for demand flexibility, grid services, occupant needs and preferences, cost reductions and increased resilience. The NREL document also incorporates grid integration strategies that can lead to additional energy and cost savings, increased resilience and larger greenhouse gas reductions.

According to the document, there are five keys to a successful GEB project:

  1. Strategically selecting sites that have GEB-favorable utility rates and incentives.
  2. Identifying GEB measures as a priority early in the project development process.
  3. Engaging stakeholders to ensure their understanding and maximize the impact of GEBs.
  4. Integrating GEB measures into major building renovations.
  5. Carefully considering methodologies to measure and verify the impact of GEBs.

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