President Trump is rarely nature’s friend, but he has just ordered all US federal buildings to improve their energy performance, explains Andrew Warren, chairman of the British Energy Efficiency Federation, in an article on the Business Green website. Is Trump turning out to be the champion of the low-carbon energy transition? Hmmmm.
Why President Trump has just delivered a boost for green buildings
The scourge of all things environmentally-friendly, US President Donald Trump seems to be making one big exception to his policy: he still wants government-occupied buildings to be as energy efficient as possible. The scourge of all things environmentally-friendly, US President Donald Trump seems to be making one big exception to his policy: he still wants government-occupied buildings to be as energy efficient as possible.
A new executive order signed by President Trump is directing all federal agencies to manage their buildings and operations specifically to improve energy performance, reduce waste, and cut costs.
The Federal Government manages more than 350,000 buildings. It is the largest consumer of energy in the USA. Now all Federal agencies have a new mandate to improve the energy performance of these assets.
The executive order directs “the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to streamline the broad and intricate range of energy and environmental requirements, and the complex directives on how to achieve them”.
Investing to Save
“Last year, federal agencies spent more than $6bn on energy for buildings and $635m on water,” a White House statement announcing the order said.According to the White House, the executive order:
- Consolidates requirements relating to energy and water efficiency, high performance buildings, renewable energy consumption, purchasing, and other aspects of managing federal facilities and operations
- Emphasises meeting statutory requirements, and gives greater flexibility and discretion to agencies to decide how to best improve operations and meet goals
- Encourages agencies to use external performance contracting to modernise buildings and achieve energy and water goals at no upfront cost to the government
- Government officials must now “ensure that new construction and major renovations conform to applicable building energy efficiency requirements and sustainable design principles; consider building efficiency when renewing or entering into leases; implement space utilisation and optimisation practices; and annually assess and report on building conformance with sustainability metrics”.
Reducing the threat of climate change
They must also “track and report on energy management activities, performance improvements, cost reductions, greenhouse gas emissions (sic), energy and water savings, and other appropriate performance measures”.
Clearly, President Trump’s executive order on energy efficiency seems a world away from his other energy policy moves. In fact, it seems to be a throwback to his days as a real estate mogul, when he took advantage of government energy conservation incentives to cut costs at his properties.The entire ‘pitch’ to him seems to deliberately echo his previous business experience within the property world, as it emphasises that installing energy saving measures ensures that buildings cost much less to run. He was asked to – and did – engage with the concept of ‘Investing to Save’.
The subsequent critical criteria for ensuring this policy is a success, requiring tracking and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions, was relegated to the small print.
Recent revelations from the White House suggest that Trump is notorious for not bothering to study in full documents represented for his approval.
After all, according to one Trump tweet from 2012 “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese, in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”.
This latest energy efficiency initiative seems in stark contrast to the President’s normal policy – he has sought to reverse more than 60 environmental rules since moving into the White House, according to The New York Times. These include flood building standards, environmental mitigation for federal projects, fracking regulations on public land, and sewage treatment pollution regulations. And all that comes quite apart, of course, from also seeking to force the US to quit the global Paris Agreement on climate change.