Federal facilities in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi will get cleaner electricity soon, as the government works towards its goal of carbon pollution-free electricity (CFE) for federal operations by 2030.
On Tuesday, the General Services Administration and Southern Company — a gas and electric utility — signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for federal facilities in Southern Company’s territory to buy more CFE to work towards the government’s sustainability goals.
At a signing event in Washington, GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan said that long-term partnerships and collaboration are critical to help achieve the government’s sustainability goals.
“You don’t always see GSA and the Defense Department standing next to each other asking for the same thing,” Carnahan said. “We’re talking about really trying to move markets and to be smart about the way we consolidate our demand to make it easier to be able to meet our carbon-free needs. So, I want everybody to understand these goals are big, but they are not a pipe dream. We are on our way to getting this done and it’s these kinds of partnerships that are going to make it happen.”
The agreement comes after the Biden administration issued its Federal Sustainability Plan in December 2021 with goals of 100% CFE for federal operations by 2030 with half of it 24/7 as well as goals to electrify its fleet of vehicles and reach net-zero emissions for federal buildings.
GSA will work with Southern Company and other utility providers to help achieve this goal. This is the fourth MOU GSA has signed. Federal facilities in Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia can or will be able to buy clean energy via the agreements. The government is working with more utility companies to add additional areas to purchase clean energy by its 2030 deadline.
Rachel Jacobson, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment said that partnerships within government and with industry are important to accomplish these goals. She also discussed the scale of the Army’s facilities and why clean energy is important for its mission.
While the Air Force and Navy primarily have greenhouse gas emissions from fuel, for the Army it’s buildings.
“We’re committed to using carbon-free energy to support the national defense mission,” Jacobson said “Carbon-free energy generation on base, particularly when distributed and integrated into a modernized grid with battery storage and upgraded transmission lines is the best way to improve our installations’ resilience against the threats of climate change. The reliability of the commercial grid is also incredibly important to our mission because we must be ready to deploy forces worldwide from our installations at a moment’s notice and we need to be able to do that under all conditions. So disruptions to the commercial grid can slow or halt our ability to train and deploy and that is why this presents a national security threat.”
The federal government has more than 300,000 buildings and 600,000 vehicles and is the nation’s largest energy consumer, according to GSA. Additionally, the federal government has more than 370 million square feet of office space. According to Carnahan and Andrew Mayock, the federal chief sustainability officer with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the federal government wants to use its size and purchasing power to lead by example and help create and shape a market for this type of energy and electricity.
Mayock said that since President Joe Biden’s executive order to electrify the federal fleet and to put all of the government’s operations onto clean energy as a whole, there has been good progress.
“What we’ve seen over the course of that year, moving from the policy framework is the doing and the acting; a number of MOUs, putting us on a pathway from the approximately 40% carbon-free electricity that we have today to 100% by 2030,” Mayock said. “So I want to thank the Department of Defense. I want to thank GSA for your leadership and standing here today and personifying how strong our pathway is now. And I want to thank Southern Company, for stepping up and joining as a partner and helping us to go execute that vision that President Biden laid out on day one, and we’re executing here today.”
Kirsten Errick covers the Defense Department for Federal News Network. She previously reported on federal technology for Nextgov on topics ranging from space to the federal tech workforce. She has a Master’s in Journalism from Georgetown University and a B.A. in Communication from Villanova University.