Key Points of the Catalyzing Clean Energy Executive Order
On December 8th, 2021, President Biden signed a sweeping executive order steering the U.S. federal government toward sustainable products and low-carbon industries. With its 300,000 buildings, 600,000 cars and trucks, and an annual purchasing power of $650 billion for goods and services, the federal government has significant influence on American clean energy industries.
“As the single largest landowner, energy consumer, and employer in the Nation, the Federal Government can catalyze private sector investment and expand the economy and American industry by transforming how we build, buy, and manage electricity, vehicles, buildings, and other operations to be clean and sustainable,” the order said.
“Right now we have a massive opportunity to create millions of clean energy jobs, save taxpayer money through reduced energy costs, and build a more sustainable future for generations of Americans,” said GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan. “Today’s actions demonstrate how GSA and our federal partners will move forward with a bold vision that meets this moment in history by harnessing the power of American ingenuity and innovation.”
Across the federal government, agencies have been moving expeditiously to meet the President’s call for action and are positioned to meet the ambitious goals of this historic executive order. Further detail can be found in its accompanying Federal Sustainability Plan.
The Biden Administration will leverage the federal government’s procurement power and scale to achieve five primary goals:
- 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity (CFE) by 2030, at least half of which will be locally supplied clean energy to meet 24/7 demand;
- 100 percent zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) acquisitions by 2035, including 100 percent zero-emission light-duty vehicle acquisitions by 2027;
- Net-zero emissions from federal procurement no later than 2050, including a Buy Clean policy to promote use of construction materials with lower embodied emissions;
- A net-zero emissions building portfolio by 2045, including a 50 percent emissions reduction by 2032; and
- Net-zero emissions from overall federal operations by 2050, including a 65 percent emissions reduction by 2030.
A Future for Solar
The goal of the Federal government is to achieve 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity use by 2030, including 50 percent on a 24/7 basis. A 24/7 basis means that the real-time electricity demand will be met with clean energy every hour, every day, and produced within the same regional grid where the electricity is consumed. This is expected to spur 10 GW of clean electricity deployment by 2030 and bring the country closer to achieving a decarbonized electricity sector by 2035.
The Department of Defense (DOD) has already gotten a head start on reaching these goals – they have contracted 534 megawatts (MW) of solar and 70 megawatt hours (MWh) of battery energy storage which is expected to be completed in 2022. Edwards Air Force Base in California will add 520 MW of CFE to the grid by completing one of the country’s largest solar PV array projects.
The Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii will leverage a 14 MW solar facility paired with 70 MWh of storage, establishing a 100% clean energy microgrid. This will be the nation’s largest microgrid powered by 100% clean energy and set an example for other sustainable microgrids throughout the country.
US Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii
The executive order also calls for the transition to 100 percent acquisition of zero-emission vehicles by 2035 for the federal vehicle fleet, including 100 percent light duty vehicle acquisition by 2027. Paired with the plan to expand national electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, the demand for electric vehicles and charging equipment will increase, supporting those manufacturers and installers.
Additionally, with greater prevalence of EVs and EV chargers, zero-emission vehicles will become more accessible, and we are sure to see individuals, state governments, and municipalities follow suit at a faster pace. This will in turn decarbonize the transportation sector and help states and cities meet their sustainability goals as well.
In 2021, the Department of the Interior (DOI) began transitioning its fleet of U.S. Park Police lightweight motorcycles and dirt bikes to 100 percent ZEVs at its Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco locations, with plans to reach a 100 ZEV fleet by 2025.
In early 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin field testing the Ford Mustang Mach-E ZEV for use in its law enforcement fleet, which currently consists of over 30,000 vehicles. Electric vehicles are particularly attractive for patrolling applications, as they are quiet and emit no harmful emissions during driving or idling.
The order sets goals aimed to modernize the federal buildings portfolio to reach net-zero emissions by 2045, including a 50 percent reduction in building emissions by 2032. The federal government will work to strengthen the vitality and livability of communities in which federal facilities are located by renovating existing facilities and building new facilities with a high-efficiency and sustainability focus.
In 2023, the Department of Transportation will complete its Volpe Transportation Center project that collapses six buildings into a sustainable community space with a low-emissions building with rooftop solar PV panels, ZEV charging stations for the federal fleet and employee vehicles, green and cool roof technologies, a rainwater reclamation and reuse system, and a climate-resilient above-grade data center.
Furthermore, modernization will help increase the resiliency of these buildings. Diversifying energy sources and securely integrating control systems are simple examples that can support building resiliency. Reducing risks of operational disruptions and physical damage to the buildings allow for critical services to continue when needed, along with the mitigation of long-term maintenance costs.
This strong push for sustainability coming from the President’s office will accelerate the federal government’s path to net zero emissions and significantly improve efficiencies in the long run. Great progress has already been made at many facilities across the country. With other facilities following suit, the federal government will support employment and investment in clean energy industries over the next decade, helping to decarbonize local communities. Sustainable technologies are essential in building a robust and competitive US economy that will benefit people at every stage – from procurement to production to installation to end users – solidifying our position on a global scale.