US Army leads in green energy-saving

Behold the magic of the ESPC. And don’t forget the UESC. According to the U.S. Army, these tools – the energy savings performance contract and its cousin, the utility energy savings contract – have the service well on its way to meeting targets set by President Obama in late 2011 for trimming energy use and costs.

ESPCs are done by private contractors and include such energy-efficiency improvements as heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting. UESCs are done by utility companies and include energy and water projects.

“The Army has taken on the president’s challenge and we’ve already invested $208.8 million of our $384-million goal in energy-saving initiatives since December 2011,” Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy & Environment, said in a statement. Hammack said the Army has enough projects in the pipeline already to meet its goal a year from now.

On Dec. 2, 2011, President Obama directed “all federal agencies to make at least $2 billion worth of energy-efficiency upgrades over the next two years, at no upfront cost to the taxpayer.”

You read that right – no upfront cost. That’s the beauty of ESPCs and UESCs. Instead of paying out of pocket, the government meets the cost of the upgrades over time out of the utility-bill savings it accrues. The contractor is paid when the upgrades deliver the promised savings (that’s the “performance” part), and when the contract is up, the Army begins to realize nothing but pure savings.

The liberal Center for American Progress has said ESPCs “are particularly advantageous in a gridlocked legislative atmosphere since they do not require additional appropriations from Congress or upfront capital from tight agency budgets.” But it’s not only liberals who backed the president on this one; the administration’s move also brought it a rare smooch from the U.S. Chambers of Commerce. The group’s chief, Tom Donohue, called ESPCs “a surefire way to create jobs and make our nation’s federal buildings more energy efficient, all without using a penny of taxpayer money.”

The Army said that UESCs and ESPCs use energy-savings technologies that extend to “small-scale renewables like solar photovoltaics, solar-thermal for hot water and air heating and wind power.” Fuel for vehicles and aircraft are not included in these energy-saving initiatives that focus on energy used in buildings.

An example of the type of thing we’re talking about: The contract for Johnson Controls, to install 5,500 solar panels as well as new utility monitoring and control systems for 120 buildings at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Pete Danko, EarthTechling