Federal government studying big blocks of energy data to achieve savings

October 19, 2012

With both candidates on the presidential campaign trail offering different visions of an energy future, the government is finding itself under the microscope when it comes to enacting on promises made to the green building industry.

According to Greentech Media, the federal government has been a key supporter of energy efficient building technology with a number of initiatives launched that are intended to encourage  the commercial real estate industry to think about innovation. Billions of dollars have been allocated to address the challenges of reducing energy consumption in offices and workplaces across the nation, with $4 billion alone directed at the Better Buildings Challenge.

In Greater Philadelphia, the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) has been making tremendous strides in revitalizing commercial real estate with a consortium of academics, the government and energy development companies working with the private sector to implement power efficient systems while tackling electricity consumption. Sponsored by the Department of Energy, the EEB Hub is seen by many as a national model for similar programs across the country.

Notwithstanding the advances made by the EEB Hub, the development of a smart grid is still under serious consideration and with federal agencies mandated to reduce energy consumption in government-owned buildings by 30 percent by 2015, the onus is on the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to step up its duties as a federal landlord.

The GSA currently has 360 million square feet of property on its books, making it a key component in attracting energy efficiency companies across the country. The announcement of a partnership with IBM and other leading technology firms to build an intelligent energy management network that would link 50 of the highest energy-consuming buildings overseen by the GSA was seen as the first step in gathering the data to move forward, with 31 million square feet of property slated to be studied and improved, with the GSA hoping to save $15 million after the first year.

Sources at IBM have said that the project is "moving fast," but the GSA won't be able to address the next 50 buildings on the list until it has solved the problems of high consumption.

"We are at a tipping point in terms of advancing the greening of our buildings and making them smarter," Dave Bartlett, vice president of industry solutions at IBM, said in a recently released statement. "The data exists- it's a matter of understanding and responding to what the data is telling us, and that's what we're helping GSA to do."